MACC detain 2 brothers, both ‘Datuks’ over Gatco land deal


PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has closed in on individuals, including two brothers with “Datuk” titles, in its probe into the Gatco land deal.

Yesterday, the two brothers, aged 54 and 58, and top officials of a group of companies were arrested by MACC, theSun reported.

The two brothers are said to be chief executive officers in two separate companies under the family-run group. They are expected to be remanded at the Putrajaya magistrate’s court today.

According to the daily, MACC director of investigations Simi Abdul Ghani had confirmed the arrests but declined to make any further comment.

The MACC had last month opened investigations into the land deal between a group of settlers and the Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (Gatco) after the settlers had filed reports alleging irregularities in the sale of the land to the current owner, Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Thamarai is an oil palm and rubber plantation company and a subsidiary of Lotus Group.

On Sept 18, MACC made its first arrest of an individual who was said to be the middleman in the land sale, which was completed in 2007.

The MACC had also sent a high-level entourage, led by chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad to visit the affected settlers at Kampung Gatco, before launching its probe.

The massive operation included a raid on the offices of the Negri Sembilan State Secretariat and Negri Sembilan Development Corporation, accounting firm Singam & Yong in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) and Thamarai Holdings. Relevant documents were seized during the operation.

The settlers’ legal battle began in 2013 when they sued the two liquidators – K Jayapalasingam and Yong Yoon Shing – and Thamarai over the land.

The land was leased in 1977 by the Negeri Sembilan State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to Gatco.

The land was reportedly converted by the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW), which owned Gatco, into a land scheme for members.

The villagers paid RM7,600 each as deposit before working on the land.

According to the facts of the case, the scheme failed and Gatco was forced to take loans from two finance companies.

A third party served a winding-up petition on Gatco in 1996. It was wound up the same year.

The land was seized and offered for public auction in 2004 and bought by Thamarai Holdings in 2007.

A lawsuit by the settlers was struck out by the High Court. The Court of Appeal, in reversing the decision in 2014, ordered the lawsuit to be reinstated.

Last October, the High Court ruled in favour of the settlers on eight questions of law during the retrial while another two questions of law were in favour of the liquidators and the company.

In November last year, the settlers filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision on the two questions against their favour.

On July 18, 28 settlers were arrested by police for attempting to stop Thamarai from cutting down rubber trees in their village. They were released two days later.

On July 24, another 30 settlers were arrested by the police for forming a human blockade to prevent lorries from transporting logs from the village. They were released the same day.