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May 1: Quoting a 'top Sabah Barisan Nasional official', a report in MCA-owned The Star's entertainment section said Rural and Regional Development minister Shafie Apdal is secretly married to actress Zahida Rafik.
"How can you say he's paid her RM1.5 million when she's actually his second wife [sic]," the Daily Chilli section of the paper's online edition, dedicated to news bordering on gossip, quotes an "insider" as saying, appearing to suggest that Shafie did not pay RM1.5 million to her because she was his wife.
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"His ex-driver doubled as a middle man to cover their tracks," it added.
The report also quoted another Malaysian actress as confirming the couple's "hush-hush relationship", and even accused Zahida of being the 'high-maintenance' type.
"He dotes on her," claimed the unnamed actress. "She is high maintenance. She only goes for designer brands like Gucci, Prada, Hermes and Louis Vuitton," she went on.
The UMNO vice president's alleged 'extramarital' relationship earlier created a buzz by a claim made by Zahida's ex-driver in a police report, saying he had been tasked with depositing cash totalling RM1.5 million given by the minister to Zahida.
Noor Azman Azemi, 38, scoffing at allegation by Zahida that he absconded her cash money worth RM200,000, also said that Shafie told him to keep a close watch on Zahida and accompany her to the bank after each time they met at any hotel in the capital. He said after each meeting, he would be given cash worth between RM100,000 and RM200,000, to be deposited into Zahida's bank account.
While the alleged affair caught public attention, PKR's Wanita head Zuraida Kamaruddin who urged Shafie to come clean over the report, however said she was more concerned with the minister's unusual wealth.
Shafie, who is married with six children, has denied that he had given to Zahida "such big amount of cash". Zahida meanwhile, replying to a flurry of comments on her Twitter, had among others said she was not someone's mistress and earned income from her own 'business'.