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Khairy, Saifuddin spar over cattle project

 | November 9, 2011

The controversial NFC continues to hog the limelight.

KUALA LUMPUR: The controversial National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project continues to draw flak as members of the opposition and the government sparred over the matter.

Last week, Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Noh Omar defended the project, saying it is a success as it met its target of producing 8,000 head of cattle by 2010.

PKR promptly hit out at Noh, saying that under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the NFC farm in Gemas, Negri Sembilan, alone should have slaughtered 60,000 head of cattle a year.

Earlier today, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin jumped to the defence of the NFC project, saying that the Attorney-General’s Report stated that the project had met its objective.

Khairy, the Rembau MP, also criticised the opposition for making “wild allegations”.

He cited an allegation that the farm in Gemas was allocated 5,000 hectares of land when in reality it was allocated only 1,500 hectares (which was a revised estimate by the ministry).

“Besides, the 1,500ha was leased from the Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Incorporated,” Khairy told reporters at the Parliament lobby, adding that PKR had got its facts wrong.

But PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution today pointed out that PKR obtained its figure (5,000ha) from the ministry’s website.

Escrow account

Saifuddin also took issue with the escrow account, alleging that the full sum of RM250 million was transferred to bank accounts under National Feedlot Corporation, which oversees the NFC.

(An escrow account is a trust account held in the borrower’s name to pay obligations such as propety, taxes and insurance premiuns.)

Yesterday, a heated debate erupted during Noh’s winding-up speech when he said that the money had been transferred  to a “special loans account”, which is akin to an escrow account.

Noh said the money could be withdrawn with the approval of the technical committee overseeing the project.

But Saifuddin questioned why the account was not held under a third party but in the corporation’s name.

He said that the account would be safeguarded by a third party such as a lawyer or a representative from a bank.

The third party would only be ordered to release the stipulated amounts by the loan provider.

“But here the account is under the corporation itself. My son who is studying accountancy in a university can explain to you the principles of escrow account.

“I don’t care if they use the term ‘similar, almost, just like’ an escrow account (to describe the special loan account); in principle, a third party should hold that account,” Saifuddin told reporters.

“The main issue is, the rakyat’s money was given to the minister’s family when the project failed to meet expectations.”

‘Discounts passed to customers’

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and her family were alleged to have gained millions from the NFC project by holding all the shares in the corporation.

Yesterday, PKR also raised the issue of the transfer of funds to Real Food Company Sdn Bhd (RFC) and National Livestock & Meat Corp Sdn Bhd (NLMC), associate companies of the corporation.

Both the associate companies are owned by Shahrizat’s family through a complicated corporate structure, PKR claimed.

PKR alleged that a subsidy of almost RM3 million was given to RFC and a RM81 million loan was given to NLMC.

But Khairy today defended the loan and the discounts given to the associate companies.

“The scope of duty of these firms is bigger than what PKR alleged. RFC not only operates (luxury) restaurants but it is also the sole distributor of NFC produced meat,” he said.

He said that the discounts were passed down to customers, adding that NLMC acts not only as a marketing agent but is also involved in developing market infrastructure and forging an opening in the highly competitive beef industry.


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