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RM3m offered after aide sought funds for Isa’s political use, court told

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 22): A former aide of ex-Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad had sought funds for Isa's political use during the sale of the Merdeka Palace Hotel Suites in Kuching to Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd (FIC), the High Court was told yesterday.

Ikhwan Zaidel, who was then a director of the hotel’s vendor Gegasan Abadi Properties Sdn Bhd, said Zahid Md Arip asked for the funds when the two met at Binjai restaurant in front of Menara Felda.

This happened while the sale and purchase agreement was being finalised in May 2014, he said.

“Zahid said Tan Sri is a politician and hence, he needs funds for his political work. In my understanding, the Tan Sri he was referring to was Isa, as he was then serving as Isa's special officer.

“At that time, I was shocked and did not give any decision. Zahid did not stipulate the amount sought. He only mentioned that the funds are to be used for Isa's political purpose,” he said in reply to questions from Deputy Public Prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz.

Ikhwan said he had no choice but to agree to the request, as he believed it was made on behalf of Isa.

“I also understood that ‘funds for Isa’ is (actually) a commission for him for assisting in the sale of the hotel. After meeting Zahid, I discussed the matter with fellow director Ibrahim Baki.

“Before the sales and purchase agreement between FIC and Gegasan Abadi was signed in early June 2014, I contacted Zahid to inform that we accede to Isa's request and would come to KL for further discussion,” he said, adding he met Zahid and informed him that Isa will be paid RM3 million.

The payment to Isa was without the knowledge of other Gegasan Abadi directors, Ikhwan said.

Ikhwan, 59, was testifying in Isa’s criminal breach of trust and graft trial. The former Felda chairman is charged with CBT for approving the hotel's purchase for RM160 million, without Felda's board approval.

He is also accused of dishonestly receiving RM3.09 million for gratification from Ikhwanough Zahid between July 21, 2014 and Dec 11, 2015, at Menara Felda, in order to approve the project.

Prior to this, Ikhwan told the court that Gegasan Abadi was looking for hotel buyers, as the company was facing financial difficulties, and that it had approached Permodalan Nasional Bhd.

The witness said the company then approached Zahid, whom he had known from a friend for the sale of the hotel to FIC. Ikhwan said the sale of the hotel at RM200 million was initially rejected, after which the amount was lowered to RM165 million, and then reduced to RM160 million.

Witness maintains Felda board did not approve purchase

Meanwhile, former FIC chief executive officer Mohd Zaid Abdul Jalil maintained that the Felda board did not approve the purchase of the hotel for RM160 million.

Mohd Zaid said the Felda board met on Dec 1, 2014 and he was invited to the board, not to gain approval from the board to purchase the hotel but to inform the board of the purchase and other developments regarding FIC.

The board was only informed of the purchase and no approval was given, he said.

“The paper I tabled at the board is merely to inform over the investment and it is not a proposal to the Felda board to get approval for the purchase. Since Dec 1, 2014 till the day I resigned, I had not been asked by the (Felda) company secretary to table an investment paper regarding the hotel purchase to the Felda board,” he maintained.

It was previously reported that the FIC board that was chaired by Isa, approved the purchase of the hotel in its meeting on April 29, 2014, on the insistence of former premier Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

However, any purchases in excess of RM100 million by any Felda subsidiary has to go through the board, but in this case, it did not.

The trial before Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues on Thursday (Oct 24).

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