Isa Samad guilty of RM3 million graft

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Isa gets six years in prison, RM15 million fine.

Hari Anggara

Former Felda chairman Mohd Isa found guilty of corruption in Sarawak hotel deal. Sentenced to six years jail and fined RM15.4 million.

Former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad was sentenced to six years jail and fined RM15.4 million today after he was found guilty of receiving bribes of more than RM3 million over the purchase of a hotel in Sarawak, seven years ago.

High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali convicted Mohd Isa of all nine charges he faced, ruling that the defence had failed to raise any doubt in the prosecution’s case against him.

Mohd Isa was sentenced to serve six years in jail for each of the nine counts. The court however ordered for the jail sentences to run concurrently, which means Isa will be serving a total of six years in jail.

“The defence by the accused is an afterthought, inconsistent and merely a denial without justification,” he added.

Prior to sentencing, Justice Mohd Nazlan took note of Mohd Isa’s background, administrative record and his political involvement as the accused was a long-serving former Mentri Besar for two decades and also as a cabinet minister.

Mohd Isa was accompanied by his wife, Bibi Sharliza Mohd Khalid and their son who were sitting at the public gallery when the verdict was delivered.

In handing down the sentence, Mohd Nazlan highlighted the seriousness of corruption-related offences which is threatening the country’s economy and the democratic system.

“Corruption is a cancer to society; it threatens the economy and the country’s democratic system,” said Justice Mohd Nazlan.

However, he granted a stay of execution against the prison sentence and fine pending Isa’s appeal to the Court of Appeal.

“The bail will be increased to RM1.5 million from RM800,000 pending appeal,” he said, ordering Isa to report to the nearest police station from his home on the 1st of every month, until disposal of his appeal.

Isa has until Thursday afternoon to pay the additional bail of RM700,000.

The hearing of the case began on Oct 8, 2019, with the prosecution calling 22 witnesses to testify, including former Felda director-general Datuk Hanapi Suhada.

Isa, who was Felda chairman from January 2011 to January 2017, was initially slapped with one charge of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and nine counts of corruption over the purchase of the Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites in Kuching, but the court acquitted him on the CBT case and ordered him to defend the bribery charges.

Isa, the longest-serving Negeri Sembilan menteri besar (1982-2004) and a former federal minister, was accused of receiving RM3.09 million in kickbacks for approving the purchase of the hotel.

Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd (FIC) paid RM160 million in 2014 for the purchase, which was reportedly at least 50% higher than the actual value of the property.

Isa was charged under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act, which provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine five times the gratification amount, upon conviction.

Nazlan ruled that the defence had failed to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case.

In his judgment, he said the court found the defence’s narrative on the nine counts of corruption merely an “afterthought”.

The court was told that Isa accepted the money in nine transactions between July 2014 and December 2015.

The money was payment by Sarawak businessman Ikhwan Zaidel to Isa for approving FIC’s purchase of the hotel, and passed to Isa through his former aide, Muhammad Zahid Arip.

Nazlan said the accused had failed to rebut his charges under Section 16 (a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 that he had corruptly received the money.

“The defence had failed to rebut on the balance of probability that the money was corruptly received as a reward to approve the purchase of Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites (MPHS) by Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd (a Felda subsidiary).

“The court, therefore, finds the accused guilty of nine charges,” Mohd Nazlan said.

During mitigation, defence lawyer Salehuddin urged the court not to execute the jail sentence against Isa for now, adding the defence intended to appeal against the conviction and sentence.

“He may be put in risk of Covid-19,” he said.

He also said it was impossible for Isa to pay the fine of RM15.4 million now. “He is currently a pensioner and would not be able to fork out RM15.4 million.”

Deputy public prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz, however, argued that there were no special circumstances that warranted a stay of custodial sentence and fine.

“We pray for the full effect of the judgment to be enforced,” he said.