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Thursday, May 31, 2012

MACC blamed for alleged whitewash in Shahrizat-NFC probe

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — The Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) was accused today of whitewashing Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil's National Feedlot Centre (NFC) graft investigation , with PKR's Rafiz Ramli pointing out that he had not even been questioned by investigators despite being responsible for most of the allegations against the minister and her family.
Rafizi, the man who led a relentless campaign to expose alleged misappropriation of public funds in the management of NFC, pointed out that he had been the one leading the series of exposes on the NFC since the RM250 million federally-funded cattle funding project hit media headlines late last year.
"Seeing as I was the one who exposed all these issues in the NFC, one has to wonder - why have I not been called in to see the MACC when I have been the loudest in this issue?" he told The Malaysian Insider when contacted this afternoon.
Rafizi (picture) said that to completely clear Shahrizat's name, the MACC must now explain why the RM250 million project had been awarded to a company owned by the Wanita Umno chief's family members, even though it has zero experience in farming.
He said it was too simplistic to clear Shahrizat just because she had not been directly involved in awarding the contract, saying it was obvious that the former minister would not have been "so stupid" to sit on the tender committee that decided on the award.
"The way they investigated it is as if they were merely trying to find a reason to let Shahrizat go.
"What the MACC needs to prove is that there was no influence whatsoever from Shahrizat that allowed her family to get the contract although they had absolutely zero experience in cattle-farming," he said.
Earlier today, MACC Operations Evaluation Panel (PPO) chairman Tan Sri Datuk Dr Hadenan Abdul Jalil revealed that Shahrizat has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the RM250 million NFC scandal, which has been dominating media headlines for months since last year.
Hadenen told reporters the MACC has declared investigations into Shahrizat's involvement closed after finding that the former minister had not been directly involved in the process of awarding the loan to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp), a company where her husband and children sit as directors.
"The decision to award the contract to the company and to award the loan does not involve her," he had said.
With the MACC's decision on Shahrizat, Rafizi said the onus was now on the agency to explain to the public its reason for not taking any further action against the tender committee that had selected the NFCorp to lead the federally-funded cattle farming project.
The committee, pointed out Rafizi, had been chaired by Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the time, and had included then Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is currently deputy prime minister.
"There were six bidders for the project and of all, only one had some experience in farming. The NFCorp, was clearly only set up recently and was not fit to run the project," he said.
"So the fact that the tender committee chaired by Najib went ahead to award the project to Shahrizat's family clearly indicates an element of corruption... otherwise, it would be quite difficult to fathom why Najib and the committee was so stupid as to award the project of this magnitude to a company with no experience," he added.
As such, said Rafizi, it was only "logical" to find the link between the committee and the company in question in order to determine if any corruption was involved in the contract award.
"And the only link between the selected company and Najib, Muhyiddin was Shahrizat," he said.
Shahrizat, who is the wife of NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail, had been linked to the scandal by PKR because of her husband’s position, and their three children’s directorships in the same firm.
The former women, family and community development minister had been questioned by the graft watchdog earlier in February after returning to her ministerial duties.
She had earlier taken three weeks’ leave to allow authorities to investigate claims of abuse of power against both her and her family.
Shahrizat stepped down as minister after her double-term as senator expired on April 8.
The RM250 million publicly-funded cattle-raising scheme was first coined a “mess” in an article in English daily The Star after it made it into the pages of the Attorney-General’s 2010 Report for failing to meet production targets.
The term was later repeated by other media organisations to describe NFCorp after PKR launched a series of exposés to show that the project’s funds had been allegedly abused.
The company’s assets were frozen after investigations were launched by the police and the national anti-graft body following the revelations.
Shahrizat's husband, Mohamed Salleh Ismail was charged with criminal breach of trust and violating the Companies Act in relation to RM49 million in federal funds given to NFCorp last March 12.
The 64-year-old was charged under Section 409 of the Penal Code relating to CBT for misappropriating RM9,758,140 from NFCorp’s funds to purchase two condominium units at the One Menerung complex in Bangsar for the National Meat and Livestock Corporation (NMLC) on December 1 and December 4, 2009.
He was also charged under the same section for transferring RM40 million of NFCorp’s funds to the NMLC between May 6 and November 16, 2009.
He was further charged in both cases for using the said funds without any approval from company’s annual general meeting, which is an offence under Section 132 of the Companies Act 1965.
If found guilty, he faces between two and 20 years’ imprisonment, whipping, and a fine for the offences under the Penal Code.
Mohamad Salleh also faces a five-year jail term or RM30,000 fine for the charges proffered under the Companies Act.
He pleaded not guilty to the CBT charge as well as two counts under the Companies Act in the scandal that has opened Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to damaging attacks ahead of elections that must be called by March next year.

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