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Malaysia's probe into failed budget carrier MYAirline widens to alleged fraud, money laundering

KUALA LUMPUR: A high-priority police investigation into the affairs of little-known businessman Allan Goh Hwan Hua is expanding from the recent collapse of low-cost carrier MYAirline into suspected money-laundering, unlicensed deposit-taking schemes and fraud.

The widening probe on Mr Goh’s dealings are also presenting some awkward governance challenges that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government must quickly tackle at a time of flagging foreign investor sentiment in the Malaysian financial markets.

Chief among them is how a businessman, whom Malaysian government officials privately acknowledge has been under the surveillance radar of a number of regulatory agencies for the last two years, managed to secure approvals to operate an airline.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said this week that the government is investigating how the license for MYAirline was awarded by the previous government, just days before Mr Anwar was sworn in as premier on Nov 24 last year. 

He also publicly chastised the national aviation licensing agency, the Malaysia Aviation Commission (MAVCOM), for the abrupt closure of the airline’s operations on Oct 12 that left over 10,000 passengers stranded when they showed up to unmanned ticketing counters at the airport on a day when there were 39 flights scheduled. 

“This is definitely something that MAVCOM has to be answerable. They have to be accountable in terms of the process of granting the licence,” Mr Loke told the Malaysian media this week, following the growing public outcry over MYAirline owing passengers over RM25 million (S$7.17 million) in pre-booked tickets.

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MYAirline had launched in early December 2022 with scheduled services between Kuala Lumpur, and Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Langkawi, and later expanded its operations in Thailand and Bangkok. There were reportedly plans to increase the fleet to 26 aircraft by end-2023, up from nine. 

MAVCOM has said it is cooperating with the government in the ongoing investigation. 

Police arrested Mr Goh, 57, his wife Neow Ean Lan, 55, and his son Sean Goh Tze Han, 26, last week, before freezing bank accounts and seizing luxury items in the investigations into alleged money laundering and fraud. The Gohs have since been released on police bail.

Another unnamed person was arrested this week in the ongoing investigations that have now expanded into a scandal-ridden e-commerce firm, known as i-Serve Online Mall, which is majority-owned by the Gohs.

Mr Goh, a low-key businessman known to be close to senior leadership of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the country’s long-established ethnic Chinese party, controls a 31.7 per cent interest in i-Serve Online Mall.

Through other privately held entities with peculiar names, such as Zillion Wealth and Trillion Cove Holdings, the businessman controls 98 per cent of MYAirline. 

IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Even before MYAirline’s surprise move to cease operations two weeks ago, Mr Goh was already entangled in the crosshairs of Malaysia enforcement agencies. 

Companies in the stable of entities controlled by e-commerce company i-Serve Online Mall were raided in November 2021 in a multi-agency operation led by the central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia. 

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