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An image taken with a handphone camera shows freed Sarawakians Wong Teck Chii, Wong Hung Sing, Johnny Lau Jung Hien and Wong Teck Kang arriving at Sibu Airport from Kota Kinabalu June 14, 2016. — Bernama picAn image taken with a handphone camera shows freed Sarawakians Wong Teck Chii, Wong Hung Sing, Johnny Lau Jung Hien and Wong Teck Kang arriving at Sibu Airport from Kota Kinabalu June 14, 2016. — Bernama picKUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — Abu Sayyaf terrorists who recently released four Malaysian sailors kidnapped off Sabah last April claimed to have been short-changed of RM3 million in their ransom payment, a Philippine daily reported.

The Manila Times quoted two “highly placed sources” in the Philippines government as saying that the southern Philippine militants were angry that they had only received 100 million pesos (RM8.8 million) instead of about 130 million pesos (RM12 million) which was reportedly raised by the hostages’ families to secure their release.

“The missing amount raised suspicions the rebels may be in cahoots with government officials from Malaysia and the Philippines who may have shared the money among themselves,” said the report.

It remains unclear as to where the RM12 million raised by the families went as Malaysian government authorities have repeatedly denied paying ransom to the rebel group.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi acknowledged that the Special Branch police had received money from the families and given it to certain Philippine agencies, but declined to name the organisations.

However, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar claimed that the money was never received by the police but was instead handed directly to an unknown “third party” that helped to negotiate the release of the hostages.

“It’s now a burning issue in Malaysia. The ransom payment is already one of their headlines but, surprisingly, it has yet to reach the Philippine media’s attention. We got information that the ASG was incensed after learning from news reports that the money was actually RM12 million, equivalent to P130 million but that only P100 million reached them.

“The question is, where did the missing money go?” the report quoted one of the senior officials as saying.

ASG is the abbreviation for Abu Sayyaf Group, popularly used in Philippine media.

The source said that information received showed that a Philippine government official in the Sulu province was involved in the negotiations.

“It is common knowledge in Malaysia that usually P30 million is paid as ransom for any number of Malaysian victims in the past. The P130 million by far is the highest,” it quoted “the other source”.

Brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Teck Chii, 29, their cousin Lau Jung Hien, and an unrelated friend Wong Hung Sing, 34, were kidnapped from a commercial barge, MV Massive 6, in the waters off Pulau Ligitan on April 1 while returning to Tawau, Sabah, after sending a cargo of wood to Manila.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen freed the four hostages on June 8.

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