Wednesday 21 March 2012

Speaker tells PAC to stop probe on NFC

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia has told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to cease its inquiry on alleged abuse of a RM250 million federal loan by the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp).

The Malaysian Insider understands the panel is holding an emergency meeting now to deliberate the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s orders which come just a day after Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family, who own the company, refused to face the committee.

“Speaker says to ‘stop’ inquiry on NFC as per his decision that it is sub judice,” a source said in a short text message.

Pandikar Amin had last week disallowed an emergency motion to discuss the RM250 million controversy despite earlier approving it for debate, citing a criminal case on the same issue.

NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamed Salleh Ismail was charged in court on March 12 with two counts of criminal breach of trust and two counts of violating the Companies Act. The food scientist is married to Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat.

“At first I allowed it to be read but now the matter has been brought to court. So I cannot do as I please.
“It cannot be discussed as it has been brought to the judiciary,” the Dewan Rakyat Speaker had said.
But a High Court ruling sighted by The Malaysian Insider showed that Pandikar Amin’s decision was flawed.

The High Court, in a contempt suit filed by Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SYABAS) against a Selangor government lawyer and PAS organ Harakah last year, had held that the courts must be cautious in applying the subjudice law and must also take into consideration constitutional provisions on the freedom of speech.

Justice Ariff Yusof, when rejecting the application, had stressed that the common law rule on subjudice must be moulded “in the light of fundamental liberties provisions”.

“The court cannot believe the sensitivities of the average Malaysian can be so different so as to incline the court to adopt a completely different juristic approach which relegates freedom of expression below the subjudice rule,” he had said.

NFCorp had also said yesterday its directors would not appear before the PAC due to the pending court case.

Mohamad Salleh was charged in the Sessions Court here with criminal breach of trust (CBT) and violating the Companies Act in relation to RM49 million in federal funds given to the company.

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 expected soon.

Shahrizat announced the day before on March 11 that she will cease to be women, family and community development minister when her senatorship ends on April 8.

She, however, will continue as Wanita Umno chief despite being dogged for over four-and-a-half months by the NFC scandal.

Shahrizat and her family were accused by the opposition of using public funds earmarked for NFCorp to finance over RM62 million of land, property and expenses unrelated to cattle farming.

The company, tasked with running the national cattle-farming scheme, is headed by her husband and their three children.

The National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project in Gemas, Negeri Sembilan, was awarded to the company in 2006, when Shahrizat was in Cabinet.

NFCorp hit the national headlines after it made it into the Auditor-General’s Report last year for missing production targets.

Police recommended last month that the A-G charge NFCorp’s directors for criminal breach of trust, but the A-G had asked the police to conduct further investigations prior to charging Mohamed Salleh.

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