I didn’t know RM3 mil I gave went to Isa, company director tells court

Former Felda chairman Isa Samad faces nine counts of corruption and one count of CBT over the alleged receipt of more than RM3 million from the sale of a Kuching hotel to Felda.

KUALA LUMPUR: A witness told the Isa Samad corruption trial that he did not know that the RM3.09 million cash he withdrew over a period of two-and-a-half years was meant to pay the former Felda chairman.

Azizi Abd Wahab, a company director of JV Evolution Sdn Bhd, told the High Court that Ikhwan Zaidel, the then director of Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites, instructed him to make withdrawals from JV Evolution and Vortex Dew Sdn Bhd and give him the cash.

“I had never met Isa Samad before and the persons I dealt with were Ikhwan and Zahid Md Arip,” he said. Zahid was Isa’s former aide, who is alleged to have collected the money on behalf of Isa.

Felda had bought the Merdeka Palace Hotel in Kuching for RM160 million in 2014 and Ikhwan had appointed JV Evolution as the agent for the sales deal.

JV Evolution was promised by Ikhwan that it would get RM10 million as an “incentive” from the sale of the hotel but the amount was later reduced to only RM1 million as the other RM9 million was said to have been used for a “political fund” in Sarawak.

Ikhwan had testified previously that he paid Isa, through Zahid, a sum of RM3.09 million between July 2014 and December 2016. The prosecution contends that the RM3.09 million from Ikhwan was an inducement for Isa to approve the purchase of the hotel.

Azizi told the court today that between August and December 2015, his company (JV Evolution) paid a sum of RM1.3 million to another company, Vortex Dew Sdn Bhd.

“From there, my partner (Mazeed Abd Wahab) and I instructed Vortex to issue 27 cash cheques back to us.

“I took the cash and passed them to Ikhwan and, on one occasion, to his brother Roney at various restaurants here and Petaling Jaya,” Azizi added.

When questioned by Isa’s lawyer, Salehuddin Saidin, about his experience in selling properties, the witness said he actually operated a business supplying spare parts to the army.

Salehuddin: Do you agree that you are not an expert in real estate matters? You only played the role of introducing Zahid to Ikhwan for the hotel sale.

Azizi: I agree.

Azizi also agreed that the setting up of JV Evolution was only meant for the Kuching hotel sale.

To another question as to why he had given instructions to Vortex Dew to issue the cash cheques, the witness said it was a “business arrangement” between his company and the company’s auditor.

Salehuddin then asked if such an arrangement was meant to evade the attention of the authorities. Azizi denied it.

The lawyer then suggested that Azizi had collaborated with Ikhwan to try to get RM10 million from the hotel sale. Azizi, who seemed startled by this, disagreed.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

Isa faces one charge of criminal breach of trust and nine counts of corruption for allegedly receiving over RM3 million at Menara Felda, Platinum Park, Persiaran KLCC, between April 29, 2014 and Dec 11, 2015.

The CBT charge provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years, whipping and a fine upon conviction, while the corruption charges allow for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of at least five times the bribe amount.