Malaysian government ad contract worth RM90m sees 3 directors arrested

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has arrested three company directors allegedly involved in a bribery case to secure a government ad contract reportedly from Tourism Malaysia worth RM90 million.

According to the sources of multiple media outlets such as Berita Harian, New Straits Times, The Star and Malay Mail, the company whose directors were arrested reportedly "submitted false documents" and produced false information to obtain the contract. Media reports added that the company was allegedly unqualified, and also failed subsequent technical and financial assessments.

According to NST, MACC identified officers from the government body involved in this case and "would be making a series of arrests" concerning those who collaborated with the three company directors. MACC had termed the operations Ops Panorama, NST added. Media reports said that the investigation is conducted under Section 17A and 18 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2019.

Meanwhile, earlier in February, A+M broke the news of Tourism Malaysia selecting The IO Movement to handle global advertising and promotion duties worth around RM89.1 million last year. The agency has also been roped into the conversation through tweets circulating online. The IO Movement was founded by Ivan Omar, according to his LinkedIn, and the CEO of the company is Ifrahim Baydr Omar, whose LinkedIn said he joined in 2016. A quick check by A+M found that the website is still under construction.

In March, A+M reached out to Tourism Malaysia to find out about the status of The IO Movement, given that the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign was cancelled, as well as what factors led to the appointment of the agency. Meanwhile in a separate tender, M&C Saatchi and Ipsos were tasked by Tourism Malaysia to oversee digital marketing duties in Europe for nine months, and studying the effectiveness of the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaigns respectively. Separately, Sundata was also picked to supply computer boards for tourism management.

Tourism Malaysia's spokesperson told A+M back then: "At this moment, we would not be able to furnish any information or status of the appointed ad agency. Our focus right now is on the Movement Control Order declared by the government." A+M followed up again in April and just last week but received no response from Tourism Malaysia. A+M has once again reached out to Tourism Malaysia for comment and is trying to reach MACC and The IO Movement.

Separately in June last year, IPG Mediabrands and GroupM (Mediaedge:cia) were among the companies and individuals named in the 41 civil forfeiture suits filed by the MACC. According to multiple media reports including The Star, The Edge and New Straits Times, the suits were to recover RM270 million which was reportedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). IPG Mediabrands later clarified to A+M that in 2013, the agency served as media consultants on a Chinese New Year campaign for the Prime Minister’s Nation Branding Division and worked with reputable media owners to execute it. It added that all related business proceedings have been verified.