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Malaysian businessman behind claim of vaccine donation called up for police questioning

Malaysian businessman behind claim of vaccine donation called up for police questioning

File photo of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo: AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha)

KOTA KINABALU: A Malaysian businessman behind the controversial offer of COVID-19 vaccine donation to Penang state government was called up for questioning by Sabah police on Friday (May 21).

Sabah Police Commissioner Hazani Ghazali confirmed that the businessman, Yong Chee Kong, had turned up for questioning over his alleged offer of two million doses of COVID-19 Sinovac vaccines to Penang.

Mr Hazani said that police had recorded Mr Yong’s statement on the matter but declined to say whether an arrest would be made, reported the Malay Mail.

The businessman had earlier made the offer to donate the vaccine on behalf of a Hong Kong-based investment company known as Xintai Development Enterprise Ltd.

The businessman’s identity and offer became the focus of attention when Malaysian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaludin told a media conference on Wednesday that the offer was probably a “scam”.

Mr Khairy, who is minister in charge of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme, said that an investigation by his office showed that Xintai Development Enterprise Ltd does not exist.

He said his team had contacted Sinovac Biotech in China which confirmed that there was no evidence or application received by representatives of the company on the intended offer.

He was responding to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow's claim that the federal government had blocked the vaccine offer to the Penang state government. The offer was made via a letter dated Feb 1 from one Yong Chee Kong to Mr Chow. 

According to Mr Khairy, his ministry had also received a letter from the same writer on Feb 9, pledging two million doses of vaccine to the Sabah state government.

“When we received the letter, I referred it to Sinovac and found the offer was not real. This is a scam, this is bogus. Do not politicise the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme with this scam”, said Mr Khairy, as reported by Bernama.

Read: Selangor state government places booking for 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to boost inoculation rate

OFFER WAS GENUINE, DONOR CLAIMED

When contacted by Malay Mail on Thursday, a man identified as Yong Chee Kong from Xintai Enterprise Development Limited insisted that his offer was genuine and made on behalf of his boss.

He added that the offer should not be linked to the firm as he was acting in his personal capacity to donate the vaccines.

He said he had never wanted the exposure and that he was disappointed his identity was exposed and his effort had been labelled a scam.

“This is now a political issue. It’s not fair to me. We only wanted to donate the vaccines, not give cash,” said Mr Yong as quoted by Malay Mail.

Mr Yong claimed that his offer of buying the Sinovac vaccine was initially for Sabah but it was rejected by the state as the vaccine had yet to be approved by the Malaysian government then.

He claimed that he was then approached by the Penang government to offer the doses to the opposition state. 

Mr Yong insisted that his offer would only involve buying of the vaccines instead of a donation of funds to purchase them.

Mr Khairy had said that if the offer was genuine, the businessman should show proof of the donation or make an official donation to the government of Malaysia, which will then be passed to the Penang government.

On Friday, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state has decided to use its own funds to procure additional COVID-19 vaccines following a discussion on this "controversy". 

“On that note, I have written a letter to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister (Khairy Jamaluddin) today to seek approval for the state government to procure the vaccines directly from the supplier authorised by the federal government or directly from the vaccine manufacturer,” he said in a statement. 

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Source: AGENCIES/ih

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