RM71 million government loan deposit was never leveraged as collateral for purchase of office properties, say NFCorp lawyers

The Kuala Lumpur High Court was told Friday that the purchase of eight KL Eco City office properties by National Feedlot Corporation’s chairman Datuk Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail and his son had never relied on loans leveraged on a government loan deposit as alleged by Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s then strategy director Rafizi Ramli and reported by Internet news portal MalaysiaKini.

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Rafizi had based his allegations on confidential banking information from Public Bank Berhad.

In his oral submission before judicial commissioner Azizul Azmi bin Adnan, counsel acting for NFCorp and its chairman Datuk M David Morais argued that, “The facility when it was current was collateralised against the properties themselves and not that the RM71,000,000-odd held to the account of NFCorp was ever used in any way in the approval of the financing for the KL Eco City purchases, nor were any part of these funds applied towards their purchase.

“The main support for Rafizi’s allegation of the misuse of the public funds came from an outdated Annexure E of the Impugned Statement. This was an extract from Datuk Dr Salleh’s banking documents and purports to suggest that the facility for the units was current as at the date of publication of the Impugned Statement (7 March 2012).

“The documents in Annexure E are undated and neither Public Bank’s credit officer Chai Ma Fatt nor Rafizi could say when it was printed.

“This begs the question as to whether Rafizi deliberately presented a document that he knew to be false. And if it was not deliberately misleading, it was certainly misleading because the information was wrong as at 7 March 2012 because the loan was never accepted and the offer was withdrawn earlier on 4 January 2012.

The damaging impugned statements by PKR’s Rafizi Ramli were clearly widely published and was intended to be widely published by Internet news portal MalaysiaKini to cause maximum damage. It was certainly smacked with malice when among others Rafzi had stated that Datuk Dr Salleh was not credit worthy with a paltry bank balance of RM421 and falsely claimed that Salleh had defaulted on loan repayments when there were none.

Datuk Morais submitted, “The Impugned Statement was published at a press conference with the intention of widespread dissemination to as many of the Malaysian reading and watching public as possible.

“It was also published at a time when there was heightened expectation of a general election. The fact that the 1st Plaintiff was the husband of a ranking Cabinet Minister and the fact that the impugned statement made more mention of the cabinet minister, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (mentioned seven times) than it did either Plaintiff was clearly intended to garner maximum interest.”

NFCorp and its chairman Datuk Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail are suing Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s then strategy director Rafizi Ramli and MKini Dotcom Sdn Bhd for the defamatory statements following a news conference given by Rafizi on 7 March 2012 at the PKR headquarters in relation to the purchase of eight KL Eco City office properties.

The acts of both of the defendants led to the collapse of National Feedlot Corporation and its high impact beef production project.

Datuk Morais submitted that MalaysiaKini’s managing editor Gan Diong Keng had “confirmed that apart from the subscribers to his news portal, there was no way of controlling republication of the impugned statement through downloading the publication and further dissemination through social media.

“They also have no means of re-callling an article or video once it is disseminated through its members and beyond.”

The court was also told that the defamatory statements cast by Rafizi Ramli at his news conference on the Public Bank Berhad documents of the Plaintiffs, were laced with intentional falsehoods and errors.

Datuk Morais submitted, “The upshot of this evidence in its entirety is that Rafizi Ramli was clearly professionally and intellectually equipped to analyse the information that he had in his hand and he had sufficient time to consider his position and the information before publishing the Impugned Statement. It is therefore inexplicable that he should make fundamental errors in the analysis of the information.”

“Rafizi took a considerable risk on receiving and analysing the Plaintiffs’ confidential banking documents. Not only because it was a breach of banking secrecy laws but because he could not verify whether the information was current. In particular, the critical information in Annexure E of the apparent collateralisation of the eight office units against the loan was undated.”

“The absence of a date on the Annexure E document should have raised red flags and he ought to have cautioned himself on whether there was in fact a loan and whether that loan was still in place as at 7 March 2012,” added Datuk Morais.

According to evidence tabled in court, no loans had been taken from Public Bank Berhad for the eight KL Eco City office properties. A letter from the bank withdrawing its offer dated 4 January 2012 confirmed this. As such, the wild claims brought on by Rafizi were not credible.

While the defendants have pleaded fair comment, Datuk Morais added, “None of the matters pleaded at by the Defence are fair comment. They are presented as statements of fact and are not the subjective comment of the writer.”

Rafizi Ramli had stated, “KEADILAN hari ini tampil dengan bukti kukuh bagaimana dana awam yang disalurkan kepada NFC untuk projek berimpak tinggi dan berkepentingan awam telah disalahgunakan bagi tujuan peribadi keluarga Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Jalil yang memiliki NFC.”

Datuk Morais emphasized, “This is not a comment. This is an assertion that KEADILAN will present evidence on how public funds for the Project were channeled for the personal benefit of the Plaintiffs. This is not commentary but an assertion that the 1st Defendant has evidence of the channeling of public funds for private purposes.”

Judicial commissioner Azizul Azmi bin Adnan will hand down his decision on 28 September 2016.

NFCorp and Datuk Dr Salleh were yesterday represented by their legal counsels Datuk M David Morais, Al Firdaus Shahrul Naing, and Syed Ismat Syed Muhamad.