Felda’s approval for purchase of hotel was ‘implied’, court told

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite the absence of formal paperwork, it was “implied” that Felda had approved its investment arm’s purchase of a RM160mil hotel in Kuching, the High Court heard.

Former Felda director-general Datuk Hanapi Suhada confirmed that no paperwork was submitted by Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd (FIC) to seek approval from Felda for the 2014 purchase of Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites from Gegasan Abadi Properties Sdn Bhd.

Hanapi, 62, was the fifth witness at the trial of former Felda chairman and FIC director Tan Sri Isa Samad for criminal breach of trust and graft.

The court heard yesterday that Felda’s board of directors, in two meetings on June 23 and Aug 4,2015 that were chaired by Isa, also authorised a loan of RM100mil to FIC so that it could pay Gegasan Abadi Properties for the purchase.

“There was no proper paperwork on the approval of the purchase, it was only in a form of a report, ” he said.

During cross-examination by defence counsel Datuk Salehuddin Saidin, Hanapi agreed that no objections to the purchase were ever raised in Felda’s board of directors’ meetings.

Salehuddin: Do you agree with me that if no objection was raised, it means that approval is implied?

Hanapi: Agree.

Salehuddin: The purchase of the hotel has never been hidden by FIC and the board could have questioned it from as early as 2014 (if the purchase has not been approved)?

Hanapi: Yes.

Hanapi also confirmed that no objections were raised on the purchase by members of the Felda’s board of directors in two board meetings, on June 23 and Aug 4,2015, meant to discuss the RM100mil loan to FIC.

Salehuddin: When you approved the payment, is it implied that it has been approved and now you just need to ratify the loan?

Hanapi: I agree.

Salehuddin: And if no board member questioned this, it is implied the approval is there even though nothing formal has been tabled (on seeking approval)?

Hanapi: Yes.

Later, under re-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz, Hanapi, however, agreed he was not aware that there was no approval for the hotel’s purchase.

Afzainizam: When you said you agreed the purchase had approval, and that was why you authorised the payment, what does it mean?

Hanapi: I did not know approval was not obtained for the purchase when I approved the payment.

On Dec 14,2018, Isa, 70, claimed trial to one count of criminal breach of trust by approving the purchase of the hotel without the approval of the Felda board of directors on April 29,2014.

The offence under Section 409 of the Penal Code carries a jail term of between two and 20 years, whipping and a possible fine upon conviction.

Isa was also charged with nine counts of dishonestly receiving gratification for himself in cash totalling RM3,090,000 from Gegasan Abadi Properties director Ikhwan Zaidel for helping to approve the hotel’s purchase by FIC for RM160mil.

The charges were made under Section 16a(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, punishable under Section 24(1) of the same law, which provides a jail term of not exceeding 20 years and a fine of at least five times the bribe amount, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

The trial continues before Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali on Monday.

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