Malaysia to probe astronaut over lecture fees
AP - 2 hours 21 minutes ago
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysian authorities will investigate allegations that the country's first astronaut collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in lecture fees in violation of an agreement with the government, a report said Sunday.
Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Fadillah Yusof said the ministry has received letters complaining that Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor has charged 8,000 ringgit ($2,222) an hour to speak at 150 corporate functions since his return from space in October, the national news agency Bernama said.
Under a contract expiring Dec. 31, Sheikh Muszaphar is prohibited from receiving any remuneration except from the government in connection with his pioneering space mission.
"We urge the public not to come with only letters of complaint but to substantiate their complaints with solid evidence such as receipts as proof of payment, invoices and all written attachments or correspondence," Fadillah was quoted as saying by Bernama. He did not say who had written the letters.
Sheikh Muszaphar and ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment. It was not immediately clear what would happen to him if he is found to have breached the contract.
The doctor-turned-astronaut has acknowledged that he accepted payments when he spoke at events but denied he imposed a fee. He said he has appeared at 200 schools and less than 10 companies.
"I am a millionaire? I wish I were. (It) is absolutely untrue," he said of the allegations that he charged 8,000 ringgit an hour in an interview earlier this month with The Star newspaper. Sheikh Muszaphar's father told the newspaper that the contributions covered his son's travel and lodging expenses.
Sheikh Muszaphar lifted off Oct. 10 in a Russian spacecraft on a mission to the international space station, where he spent 11 days in space and conducted scientific experiments with cancer cells, proteins and microbes of tropical diseases.
The bachelor, who has since become a national heartthrob, was the ninth Muslim in space and the first during Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sundown.
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