We were offered RM300,000 to give up claim, say trustees in Penang wakaf land tussle

Lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader (third from left) with co-counsel Yuslinov Ahmad (left) and Mohd Rafie Mohd Shafie (right) outside the Shariah High Court in George Town, Penang, on Tuesday.

GEORGE TOWN: The Shariah High Court heard that an individual had attempted to bribe three trustees of wakaf land with RM300,000 to sign an unfavourable contract allegedly prepared by the Penang Islamic Religious Affairs Council (MAINPP) in 2016.

Former two-term senator Abdul Shukor PA Mohd Sultan told the court on Tuesday the offer was made “by a person known to both sides”, who had offered to pay each of the trustees RM100,000.

Shukor and two others – Syed Idross Syed Hassan Al Mashoor and Sheik Mohd Jelani Sheik Emam – had filed a suit against MAINPP to reclaim two plots of land measuring 6ha in Air Itam. Their great-grandfather, real estate tycoon Shaik Eusoff Shaik Latiff, had willed that the land be held in trust for his descendants.

The land was to be used as wakaf land for a period of 21 years from the death of Shaik Eusoff’s last offspring.

The last of his seven children – a daughter – had died in 1932, so the land was supposed to be returned to the family estate in 1953.

A page from real estate tycoon Shaik Eusoff Shaik Latiff’s will dated Dec 30, 1892.

This was as per a 10-page will written in English dated Dec 30, 1892.

The case has been in and out of the civil courts since the late 1990s over an argument that the land was held in trust and not wakaf as claimed by Muslim authorities.

During re-examination by his lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader on Tuesday, Shukor said he and the other two trustees refused to take the bribe and lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission instead.

He said there had been no outcome from the investigation to date.

Shukor said before the alleged bribe offer, Penang governor Abdul Rahman Abbas had invited him and representatives of MAINPP to sit down and look for an amicable solution to the wakaf land claim by the Shaik Eusoff family.

He said he took the governor’s advice and promised to revert to MAINPP with a proposal, after discussions with the two other trustees.

Shukor said they proposed that MAINPP give 72.5% of the gross development value of any development taking place on the land directly to Ikatan Kasih, a society registered by the family.

He said MAINPP then prepared a contract titled “Pengagihan Manfaat Pembangunan” for the land, but without the 72.5% quantum discussed earlier.

Shukor said MAINPP’s figures were so small that he and the two other trustees decided not  to accept the contract.

He said it was then that a person “known to both sides” -the family and MAINPP –  attempted to cajole the three trustees and offered them RM100,000 each to accept the contract.

MAINPP is represented by lead counsel Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar and Mohd Anuar Ahmad.

The plaintiffs are also represented by lawyers Mohd Rafie Mohd Shafie and Yuslinov Ahmad.

The trustees had previously applied to MAINPP to obtain the land but failed.

Shaik Eusoff, who was a Jawi Peranakan with roots in Gujarat, India, was a well-known real estate magnate said to have owned large tracts of land in George Town in the early 19th century.

His descendants are also credited with bringing the boria – Penang’s traditional “parody theatre” – to the state.

The trial before Shariah High Court judge Mohd Yunus Mohamad Zin continues tomorrow