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Muhyiddin Yassin’s scandal exposed

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By Hakim Joe

Stamford Holdings Sdn. Bhd. is a plantation company registered in Malaysia under the Companies Act and 90% of its equities are owned by the Seet family from Singapore, the Gan family and the Wang family from Malaysia.

In 1994, Stamford applied to the Johor government for permission to develop a light industrial estate on part of its huge land holdings near the state capital of Johor Baru. However nothing happened during the subsequent four years.

In 1998, two Malaysians approached Stamford alleging that they were the Johor Menteri Besar’s (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin), business associates and that they were able to able to get Stamford’s application approved promptly. The two individuals were Syed Mokhtar

Albukhary and Datuk Yahya Taib. The meeting was held in Singapore.

The one pertinent condition was that Stamford form a joint venture together with them along with Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin whereby Stamford would retain 70% of the shareholdings in this JV company and that the trio would pump in RM1,800,000 (approximately RM3,397.50 per acre) into the JV Company to develop 1,766 acres of its 8,310 acres in total land holdings.

In late 1989, Stamford agreed to the proposal and the four parties formed a JV company, which resubmitted a fresh application to the Johor State government to convert the 1,766 acres of plantation land to industrial use. The new application was promptly approved.

When the property was later sold in 1994, the Muhyiddin group’s initial investment of RM1.8 million had soared to RM83.2 million (4622%).

Meanwhile in 1992, Syed Mokhtar Albukhary and Datuk Yahya Taib again approached Stamford’s directors, proposing to develop the remaining 6,544 acres of Stamford’s Johor prime land holdings. However the conditions were different this time around. They were

willing to pay RM30,000 per acre to Stamford but demanded 70% equity stake. When Stamford insisted on retaining the original JV conditions whereby they hold 70% equity and that the Albukhary- Taib- Yassin group pay RM70,000 per acre for the 30% equity stake, one of Muhyiddin’s associates allegedly warned Stamford’s directors that the land acquisition papers were on the MB’s desk and could be “signed at any time”. Stamford refused.

A few days later, Muhyiddin called up Stamford again, and told them, “Look, I have this piece of paper in front of me on my desk. All I have to do is sign it and Stamford Holdings will no longer own the 4,000 acres of land. Now, do you agree or not to develop the land
and I take 70%?” Stamford again refused.

The following week, they received a letter from the Johor State Government signed by Muhyiddin stating that the government has taken over the land.

In July 1994, the State Government of Johor officially acquired the land on behalf of the Johor Islamic Economic Development Corporation (Perbadanan Kemajuan Ekonomi Islam Negeri Johor) under the Land Acquisition Act.

Stamford Holdings, through its director, Gan Tee Kian, filed the suit in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on February 4, 1995 claiming that Muhyiddin, Syed Mokhtar and Yahya contravened the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act in acquiring the piece of land through the Johor Islamic Economic Development Corporation and sued the trio for damages for alleged conspiracy in acquiring land in Johor through the Land Acquisition Act.

In the suit, Stamford Holdings claimed the three had abused certain provisions of the Act to acquire its 6,600 acres of land through the Johor State Islamic Economic Development Corporation using one of its subsidiaries, Kelana Ventures Sdn. Bhd. Stamford Holdings also named the Johor State Government as a defendant in the suit, alleging that Muhyiddin and the two businessmen conspired to use the state government’s authority to acquire the land. Stamford Holdings wants the court to declare that the Johor State Islamic Economic

Development Corporation was not entitled to invoke provisions of the Land Acquisition Act to acquire a private landed property.

It had also claimed that Syed Mokhtar and Yahya had conspired with Muhyiddin to press for the land acquisition. In the suit, Stamford Holdings sought a declaration that the land acquisition exercise was not done in good faith and was therefore null and void.

Two weeks later, the case was transferred to the Johor Baru High Court.

On February the 24th, 1995, the Johor Baru Land Administrator made an award sum of RM239,099,583.00 over the said property to Stamford Holdings. This comes to about RM36,670 per acre.

On April the 15th, 1995, the Johor Baru High Court struck out with costs Stamford Holding’s suit, saying that the company had no reasonable cause of action against the five defendants. Stamford’s solicitors then brought the case to the Court of Appeal.

On December the 28th, 1995, Kelana Ventures Sdn. Bhd. deposited the award amount with the Johor Baru High Court.

On March the 14th, 1996, another RM10,585,894.90 was deposited by Kelana Ventures with the Johor Baru High Court as accrued interest. Subsequently when Stamford Holdings challenged the Land Administrator’s award, the said award sum was revised by the Johor High Court by RM63,565,982.20 making it a total of RM313,251,460.10 (about RM48,000 per acre).

On November the 12th, 1996, the said differential sum of RM63,565,982.20 was likewise deposited with the Johor Baru High Court by Kelana Ventures Sdn. Bhd.

It was during the time when this case appeared in the Court of Appeal that Asiaweek did a comprehensive investigative report on it, quoting ad verbatim Muhyiddin’s phone call to one of Stamford’s directors.

The Johor MB then publicly denied all allegations made in an article on Asiaweek stating, “There is not a single shred of truth in any of the allegations against me” but failed to instigate legal redress against the magazine. This inaction speaks louder than words as Asiaweek has deterred any legal action from Muhyiddin by also stating on the article that they have in their possession the taped conversation between Muhyiddin and Stamford Holdings.

On December the 11th, 1997, the Court of Appeal overruled the Johor Baru High Court’s decision and ordered all proceedings in the civil suit to proceed pending an appeal by the defendants.

On June the 10th, 1998 the Federal Court granted leave to the defendants to appeal to the Federal Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal and further ordered that there be a stay of proceedings in the Johor Baru High Court civil suit.

Instead of pursuing the case in the Federal Court, all parties agreed to an out of court settlement and a Consent Order was recorded at the Johor Baru High Court. Judge Zainun Ali recorded the order after lawyers for the company and the defendants agreed to settle the matter in the judge’s Chamber and all parties concerned agreed upon a final figure of RM405 million as due compensation for the compulsory acquisition of the said property by the State Government in accordance to the Land Acquisition Act (about RM62,000 per acre).

The judge then ordered Kelana Ventures to pay the differential amount of RM92,115,606.80 directly to Stamford Holdings but allowed them a period of 18 months to complete the payment. The sum was not ordered to be paid as damages but compensation in lieu.

He also ordered that the State Government and/or the Land Administrator alienate the land to Kelana Ventures within three months from the day the Consent Order was recorded. The freehold land is in the mukim of Tebrau in Johor Baru.

Meanwhile, the judge also ordered Stamford Holdings to hand over the land title to Kelana Ventures within two months from the day the Consent Order was recorded, and pay retrenchment benefits to workers affected by the transfer of the land to Kelana Ventures.

The judge further ordered that all the civil suits, civil appeals and miscellaneous civil applications by the plaintiff be settled and be disposed of.

No further action was taken against Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, Datuk Yahya Taib or Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who later became the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. – Malaysians must know the truth