BAGAN DATOH - A theft of the Royal Malaysia Air Force (RMAF) fighter jet engine was an inside job.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that a group of low-ranking officers were in cahoots with civilians in the well- planned theft and sale of the RM50mil ($20mil) engine.
Zahid said the thieves had sold the engine to an international company based in South Africa which was believed to have hired an agent to bring it out of the country.
"The international company was interested in buying the engine because it was cheap as it was categorised as faulty spare part and was to be under repairs.
"The ministry will take legal action at the international level to go after the company involved.
"Stern action will also be taken against the RMAF personnel involved for betraying the country," he said after launching an environmental programme here yesterday.
Zahid said that all the documents pertaining to the "sale" of the engine are in the hands of the police.
Earlier in Balik Pulau, Zahid said the ministry would not compromise on any loss of asset or document and would come down hard on those involved.
Speaking to newsmen after launching the Penang and Kedah volunteer force yesterday, he said RMAF discovered the loss in 2007 when it wanted to overhaul the jet engine.
"I want to assure the public that the RMAF's delivery and procurement system is very good. It has been revamped since the incident.
"My ministry will continue to monitor and ensure that the inventory and asset movement procedures are properly controlled," he said.
Zahid said the ministry would upgrade the currently manual asset and equipment inventory system to one which was "digital automation."
He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was aware of the incident as he was the then Defence Minister and would be updated on the progress of investigation "from time to time."
It was reported that the General Electric J85-21A afterburner turbojet engine, which served as a power plant for the single-seater F-5E Tiger 11 and RF-5E Tigereye, went missing from the RMAF airbase in Sungai Besi late last year during a routine maintenance service.
Also missing was its maintenance and service record.
Later in Lumut last night, Zahid said he believed there were other documents and items, which had been stolen.
He said they were waiting for the police to complete investigations before taking further action. He also urged the RMAF to have a better inventory system.