The MACC's move to charge Sime Darby’s ex-CEO for land-grabbing in Sarawak will hopefully lead to more revelations of abuse.
KUCHING: The arrest of the former Sime Darby group chief executive officer-cum-president Ahmad Zubir Murshid is of immense interest to the natives of Sarawak as it relates to the “sale” their native customary rights (NCR) lands.
Lauding the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for its action, local senior NCR lawyer Baru Bian said the arrest “served as another example of incidences of land-grabbing in Sarawak”.
“I am glad to note that the MACC is taking this matter seriously and am looking forward to the results of its efforts.
“This case will hopefully lead the way to more revelations about other such cases and about how many acres of NCR land have been dealt with and disposed of in a similar manner.
“Such deals in Sarawak are never made without the blessing and sanction of those in power and we would like to know more about who gave the approvals, how such approvals were obtained and how much incentive was given in exchange for such approvals,” said Bian, who has been successfully defending NCR land cases in court.
Bian, who is also Sarawak PKR chief, sad the NCR land involved in the Sime Darby case is reported to be worth RM80 million.
He pointed out that anyone who is familiar with NCR land issues would know that the compensation paid to the natives in the acquisition of their land is very minimal, and in some cases even negligible.
“I am sure the public would be interested to know how many families were displaced by Sime Darby’s ‘purchase’ of the land, how many acres were taken, and how much of the RM80 million actually was paid to the landowners.
“I note that Sime Darby has filed another civil suit against Zubir and two others for damages of at least RM92.2 million for breach of trust and fiduciary duty in connection with the Bakun Dam project, and I am waiting with great anticipation for the details to be revealed,” he said.
Bian added that the latest Sime Darby episode was not unique and was in fact “a phenomenon which is widely practised by those with powerful connections”, but which Chief Minister Taib Mahmud continues to claim not to exist.
Sime Darby ex-CEO charged
Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur, Bernama reported that Zubir was charged at the Sessions Court here on two counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) in the NCR land development project in Sarawak causing the company to incur losses of more than RM100 million.
Zubir, 55, pleaded not guilty to both charges and to two alternative charges of deceiving the company’s board of directors on the same project.
On the first count, he was charged with CBT for deceitfully failing to take legal action or instruct to take legal action to rectify the award of the NCR land to a private company named Vertical Drive Sdn Bhd.
Zubir had allegedly obtained the approval of the Sarawak government for the NCR land, under the Sarawak Upstream Expansion Plan, on behalf of Sime Darby, in his capacity as president and CEO.
He had allegedly been entrusted with the company funds to acquire the land located in KJD/Lower Julau, Sungai Julau/Sungai Pitoh/Sungai Jiet and part of Merurun/Meluan/Entabai, Sarikei, in Sarawak.
The accused had instead allegedly caused Sime Darby to lose RM85,023,047.20 in the form of a Maybank cheque in the process of acquiring the NCR land from Vertical Drive.
The second count involved CBT of company funds involving NCR land at the confluence of Btg Rejang/Btg Baleh Rivers in Kapit and the remaining eastern half of Merurun/Meluan/Entabai in Julau.
Zubir was also charged with the failure to take legal action or instruct to take legal action to rectify the award of the NCR land to another company, Nature Ambience Sdn Bhd, thereby causing Sime Darby a loss of RM16,816,217.
He faces up to 20 years in prison, caning and possible fine, upon conviction under Section 409 of the Penal Code.
Two additional charges
He also faces two alternative charges of deceiving the Sime Darby board of directors in his capacity as the company’s president and CEO at the time.
Zubir was charged with not informing the board of directors that the NCR land approved to Sime Darby had been awarded to Vertical Drive and Nature Ambience, knowing it could cause losses when they took over the two companies.
He faces up to seven years in prison or fine or both, upon conviction under Section 418 of the Penal Code.
The offences were allegedly committed at the Sime Darby Bhd office in Wisma Sime Darby, Jalan Raja Laut, here between Nov 17, 2008 and Dec 4, 2009.
Judge Jagjit Singh Bant Singh allowed bail at RM200,000 with one surety and fixed Oct 2 for case management.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Anthony Kevin Morais and Allan Suman Pillai prosecuted while the accused was represented by K Kumaraendran, Stanley Augustin Paul and Chetan Jethwan.