Whistleblower pressured to quit bank over NFCorp scandal, PKR alleges
UPDATED @ 12:42:22 PM 14-05-2012
PETALING JAYA, May 14 — The National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) is now “hunting down” alleged whistleblowers to “put the lid on” claims the company, owned by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family, abused a RM250 million federal loan, says PKR.
The party held a press conference today with a former Public Bank clerk, Johari Mohamad, who said he has been “pressured for months before resigning” on May 2 after a domestic inquiry was held due to a complaint by NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail.
The 41-year-old has also been summoned by Bank Negara investigators to provide information at 2pm today under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA), under which NFCorp has lodged complaints over bank details exposed by PKR.
“Investigations should be dropped immediately. If Johari is the whistleblower, he should be commended but if he is not, then it is improper. Why are public funds being used to investigate small fries instead of the NFCorp, an ‘elephant’s corpse’.
“Salleh has been making repeated complaints and pressuring Public Bank and Bank Negara to take action against Johari, who is accused of exposing information regarding the purchase of luxury property in KL Eco City,” PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli (picture) said.
He added that because Salleh had “high cables,” referring to Shahrizat’s position as Wanita Umno chief and being a Cabinet minister for 11 years until she quit amid the NFCorp scandal last month, he could pressure authorities to intimidate whistleblowers
NFCorp directors have since denied PKR’s claim that they used the RM250 million in public funds meant for a national cattle-farming scheme to leverage personal loans to buy eight office units worth RM12 million in the new development.
The letter from Public Bank accused Johari of accessing, printing and divulging bank account details of Salleh, who is Shahrizat’s husband, the NFCorp and other companies related to the family to an “unauthorised third party” on February 16.
Although Johari answered with a curt “no,” when asked if he was the whistleblower in question, he and his lawyer, PKR vice-president N. Surendran, refused to say whether or not he had accessed the account details.
“I am only clerical staff. I cannot access beyond the guidelines for my job,” Johari said, without elaborating further.
The letter from Bank Negara states that Johari can be jailed for up to five years and/or fined RM5 million if he does not comply with investigations.
Surendran said the Whistleblower Act does not protect a person summoned under the BAFIA which “gives no right of silence.”
“You can be charged for refusing to answer questions even if they incriminate you or others. I will advice my client to disregard this. It is a ridiculous Act and we will challenge its constitutionality at the right time,” he said.
Rafizi said although he was not aware of the strict regulations under BAFIA when first exposing the NFCorp scandal, he was shocked to later find that “even if the Agong exposes something” he has no immunity and can be imprisoned.
“The BAFIA is an Act to protect criminals and thieves. Even if a bank sees something wrong, it will be liable to five years’ jail if it opens its mouth,” he added.
Salleh has filed complaints to Bank Negara and police reports accusing Rafizi of slander and breaching financial laws by distributing private banking details of company directors, which include Shahrizat’s three children, and other companies belonging to them.
NFCorp was tasked with running the controversial National Feedlot Centre (NFC) that the government recently said it will tender out to another company.
According to documents from one bank, which Rafizi said were provided by a whistleblower, NFCorp directors made two deposits totalling RM71,486,589 under the company’s name and another deposit totalling RM1,872,254 under National Meat and Livestock Corporation.
Two other documents showed that her family members had obtained a credit facility worth RM197,338 under Agroscience Industries, a RM4,391,240 loan for a property purchase and that Salleh was named as guarantor for another loan of RM663,743.
NFCorp also said last month its lawyers will sue the bank which failed to comply with BAFIA, on top of earlier libel suits already filed against Rafizi and Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin.
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, quit the Cabinet in early April after allegations she and her family used a RM250 million soft loan meant for the cattle-rearing project to finance land, property and other unrelated expenses.
On March 12, Salleh, pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court here 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.