Azmin wants stern action against Najib for ‘leaking’ Felda White Paper

Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya wants stern action to be taken against former prime minister Najib Razak for leaking a portion of the Felda White Paper before it was tabled in the lower house today.

Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said he was aware that Najib (BN-Pekan) had published a portion of the White Paper on his Facebook yesterday evening, even though it had been embargoed until this morning.

“How can a former prime minister commit such an offence? How can he publish a document yesterday evening, when it had been embargoed till this morning?

“So, early this morning, I have already brought forward a motion for stern action to be taken against Pekan. It is a big offence although it may be small to him,” he said during his winding-up speech of the White Paper today.

Azmin (PH-Gombak) also chided Najib for his debates on Facebook.

Azmin was responding to a question by Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai) on whether Azmin was aware that Najib had published the embargoed document yesterday evening.

Fahmi said Najib had violated Standing Order 95A by publishing a part of the document before the embargo had been lifted.

According to Standing Order 95A, leakage of such bills and papers, in whole or in part, before the stated date, is in contempt of the lower house.

Meanwhile, to a claim made by Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) that the cost of replanting oil palm was too high at RM254,000, Azmin said this was baseless.

Azmin said the actual cost to replant is between RM120,000 and RM150,000, and that it covers a living loan and an advance in revenue.

He then explained the formula for the loans and advance, which cover a period of up to eight years.

“If Pontian can be more fair to the house, look at the White Paper. It clearly says that the cost to replant is between RM120,000 and RM150,000,” he said.

Investment in Eagle High Plantations

Azmin also addressed Najib’s defence of Felda’s investment in Indonesia’s Eagle High Plantations TBK (EHP).

In a Facebook post, Najib said he had called on the government in early February to reveal that a “put option” was part of the agreement, yet Putrajaya had remained silent.

Najib said the “put option” would allow Felda to sell back its 37% to EHP at the original purchase price plus the 6% annual interest charge borne by EHP.

“In other words, if we do not want to continue with the investment, we can claim all the money we paid plus 6% annual interest.

“The money we used to pay for the investment was borrowed through bonds with an interest rate of only 3.85%,” he said.

To this, Azmin questioned whether Rajawali Capital, owned by Peter Sondakh, had the capability to buy at the same value, considering that when Najib ordered Felda to take over 37% of Eagle High shares, no due diligence on Rajawali was carried out.

“When we investigated Rajawali’s position, in 2014 it had nett tangible assets of only US$7.2 million.

“If that was Rajawali’s nett tangible asset, how can they buy back the company from Felda at US$505.4 million?”

Azmin also said that earlier this year, Felda had issued a notice to Eagle High to exercise its option, but the latter opposed it and took Felda to court instead.

“When the court allowed Felda’s application, Rajawali decided to initiate arbitration.

“This proves Pekan’s assumption that with the put option, Felda can at any time get the US$505.4 million is a lie to the people and to Felda settlers,” he said.

Azmin said when Najib ordered Felda to take over Eagle High, forcing the finance ministry to fund the acquisition, Eagle High promised to get the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification within a year.

The absence of the RSPO would mean that companies cannot trade any of their products.

“My question is, a year after we took over Eagle High, until today, they have failed to get the certification.

“I wish to ask Pekan, why is Felda burdened with a company with no RSPO certification?

“On top of that, the company was bought at a premium rate 96% higher than market price.

“This is why, Pasir Salak, please leave Bossku (Najib’s moniker),” he said.

At this juncture, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-Pasir Salak) said that he had personally raised the matter and had urged for caution.

“I personally smelled a rat. I was against it because I suspected several things. There are many vacant pieces of land with no crops.

“Don’t say we did not speak up. We spoke up.

“This is also the case with Langkawi (Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad). All of you can speak, but Langkawi decides,” he said.

Azmin urged Tajuddin not to liken Mahathir to Najib. Tajuddin said he was merely pointing out the system being used, where the leader makes the final decision.

On the issue of Felda Global Ventures Holdings (FGV) generating profits, but going into the red after Pakatan Harapan took over, Azmin said assets bought and investments made by the commercial arm between 2013 and 2016 were not of good value.

He said the management then failed to carry out impairment (market value assessment).

“You see, when the management does not take the initiative to carry out impairment, of course the books and the financial standing will look good,” he said.

Azmin said investments in certain assets brought losses of RM1 billion to FGV, which they were only able to detect when they carried out impairment.

“When you keep quiet, you don’t review, of course the finding will be different from the actual situation,” he said.