1.2 million tonnes of coral may have been illegally extracted from reefs located near Malaysia’s protected Semporna Islands Park.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjum has formed a committee that will investigate the allegations made by former state Social Services Minister Datuk Kong Hong Ming.

According to the former minister, corals have been extracted for 10 years by a certain group under the pretext of dredging sea sand. The corals have then been ground up and the powder sold to medical and pharmaceutical companies to be used for bone surgery, dentistry and drugs. Kong Hong Ming also said that he has visited an area in Tawau where 1,000 tonnes of corals were stored and that all corals were moved two days after his visit.

Manjum has now given the committee, headed by his minister Deputy Permanent

Secretary William Bayo, three weeks to wrap up its investigation.

This is a very serious matter. I do not want to prejudice the probe by saying any more about it,” Masidi said Thursday.

Semporna Islands Park, also known as the Tun Sakaran Marine Park, is home to one of the nation’s prime coral reefs and the surrounding area is also very rich in biodiversity.