Selangor to pay Rafizi’s legal costs
SHAH ALAM, Aug 1 — The Selangor state government today said it would bear the legal costs of PKR’s Rafizi Ramli, who was charged under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) for exposing confidential banking details of the National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp).
NFCorp runs the federal government’s cattle farming project that has been at the centre of a RM250 million scandal.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim today said that the state will use RM500,000 from the Selangorku Grant to defend whistleblowers.
“The Selangor government has allocated 10 per cent of the RM5 million Selangorku Grant for anti-corruption funds, known as the “whistleblower fund”...and from that fund, we will use it to pay for Rafizi,” Khalid told reporters at a press conference today.
The PR leader said Rafizi’s detention proves that the prime minister’s announcement regarding the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s commitment to transparency and accountability is an empty promise.
“If they (whistleblowers) are victimised, the state government can use that fund to defend them...so they can continue with their exposes,” said the Ijok state assemblyman.
This morning, Rafizi was detained and charged in the Shah Alam Sessions Court under Section 97 (1) of BAFIA 1989 for disclosing four customer account profiles detailing the balance summary for the NFCorp, the National Meat and Livestock Sdn Bhd, Agroscience and Industries Sdn Bhd and NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail to two individuals identified as Yusuf Abdul Alim and Erle Martin Carvalho.
Former Public Bank clerk Johari Mohamad was charged with abetting Rafizi in disclosing the account profiles for the same four customers, under Section 112(1)(a) of the BAFIA, read together with Section 91 (1) of the same law that deals with confidential banking information.
Rafizi and Johari face the same sentence of a maximum fine of RM3 million and three years in jail if found guilty.
If convicted, Rafizi’s chances of standing as a candidate in the 13th general elections that must be called by next April could be seriously hobbled.
Both pleaded not guilty when the charges were read out at the Sessions Court before Justice Aslam Zainuddin.
Deputy public prosecutor Nahra Dollah had asked for bail for the duo to be set at RM100,000 each before the defendant’s lawyer N. Surendran pleaded the court for a reduction in the bail.
Nahra Dollah also asked for the court to withhold Rafizi’s passport because it is a non-bailable offence, but the defendant’s lawyer countered that Rafizi is a well-known figure and would not leave the country.
The pair were finally released on a bail of RM15,000 each, with PKR communications director Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad acting as Rafizi’s bailor.
During the hearing, the courtroom was filled with PR supporters who were angry at the charges against Rafizi.
When met outside the court, Puspawati Rosman said that Rafizi’s detention was unnecessary as he always cooperated with the authorities.
“As a ‘whistleblower’, he should be protected and not prosecuted,” she said, adding that “we should thank Rafizi for working hard to save the people’s money.”
The trial is set for September 10.
Rafizi had previously asked why Bank Negara Malaysia did not investigate the family of former Cabinet minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who are directors of the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) — the operators of the NFC — under the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The opposition has alleged that NFCorp directors used the loan meant for a federal cattle farming scheme to buy or finance properties in Kazakhstan and Singapore worth at least RM45 million, and to siphon away at least RM12 million to their own companies in the island state.
PKR had also accused NFCorp of “hunting down” alleged whistleblowers to “put the lid on” claims the company abused the RM250 million federal loan to finance property, luxury cars and expenses unrelated to cattle farming.
The firm hit the headlines last year when the Auditor-General reported that it had missed production targets.
Shahrizat, who was a minister when the project was awarded to her family in 2006, relinquished her Cabinet post in early April over the allegations against her family.
On March 12, her husband, Mohamad Salleh, pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving RM49.7 million with regards to the purchase of two condominium units.
He also pleaded not guilty to two other charges under the Companies Act.