KUALA LUMPUR: Former Felda chairman Isa Samad claimed trial at the Sessions Court today to committing criminal breach of trust (CBT) in the purchase of a hotel in Sarawak for RM160 million, which was above market value.
Isa, the former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar, also pleaded not guilty before Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi to nine counts of accepting bribes amounting to RM3 million in connection with the hotel purchase.
For the CBT case, the 69-year-old was accused of committing the offence at the Felda headquarters here on April 29, 2014.
He was said to have approved the purchase of Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites in Kuching without the approval of the Felda board of directors, in his capacity as the director of Felda Investment Corporation (FIC), the investment arm of the national land agency.
The board on June 25, 2013, only gave FIC the mandate to make investments in properties worth RM100 million and below.
The charge was framed under Section 409 of the Penal Code. If found guilty, Isa could be jailed for up to 20 years or fined.
For the nine counts of accepting bribes, Isa was said to have received RM100,000, RM140,000 and RM250,000 on one occasion, RM300,000 on two occasions and RM500,000 on four.
He was accused of receiving the money from Ikhwan Zaidel, who is a board member of Syarikat Gegasan Abadi Properties Sdn Bhd.
The money was allegedly collected for Isa by his former special officer Muhammad Zahid Arip. Zahid is now political secretary to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The offences were said to have been committed at the Felda headquarters at Menara Felda between July 2014 and December 2015.
The nine charges were made under Section 16 (a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act. If found guilty, Isa could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined not less than five times the value of the gratification received.
Deputy public prosecutors Umar Saifuddin Jaafar and Afzainizam Abdul Aziz prosecuted, while Isa was represented by lawyers N Kumaraendran, Lavinia Kumaraendran and Ridha Abdah Subri.
Umar proposed bail of RM2 million but Kumaraendran argued that Isa posed no flight risk. He said Isa would remain in the country to clear his name as well as that of his family, adding that bail was imposed to ensure that he attends court.
Azura then set bail at RM800,000 with one surety and told Isa to surrender his passport to the court pending the outcome of his trial.
She also set Jan 25 for case mention.
Isa was arrested by the MACC in August last year in connection with the hotel purchase and held for five days to assist in the investigation.