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Rafizi Ramli – fined max of RM3 million and jailed up to three years

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SHAH ALAM – PKR strategy chief Rafizi Ramli was charged today with violating the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) in exposing confidential banking details related of National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp), in a case that will put whistleblower protection laws under greater scrutiny.

The firm runs the federal government’s cattle farming project that has been at the centre of a RM250 million scandal.

The charge proffered under Section 97(1) of the BAFIA stated that Rafizi had disclosed four customer account profiles detailing the balance summary for the National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (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.

Under Section 103(1)(a) of the same law, he could be fined a maximum of RM3 million and jailed up to three years if found guilty, which could seriously hobble Rafizi’s chance of standing as a candidate in the 13th general elections that must be held by April next year when the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s mandate expires.

He pleaded not guilty when the charge was read out at the Sessions Court here.

Bail was later set at RM15,000 with Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who is also PKR communications director, as bailor.

The trial is set to start on September 10.

The charge comes at a time when Rafizi’s credentials as a whistleblower has been burnished with the many high-profile cases like the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal he has brought to light.

On May 30, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) had summoned Rafizi to give his testimony under BAFIA related to the NFC, two weeks after an ex-Public Bank clerk was hauled up under the same law.

Rafizi has been at the forefront of exposés on the NFC scandal involving a RM250 million government loan.

He had said the move to summon him for investigations showed “the authorities do not welcome whistleblowers”. He then challenged Datuk Seri Najib Razak to deny that his administration was victimising informants and protecting those involved in corruption.

Rafizi had also asked why BNM 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 for alleged money laundering.

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 out 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 party held a press conference on May 14 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.

NFCorp also sued Public Bank for loss of reputation as a result of an alleged breach of its security that resulted in the private banking information of the company, its chairman and related companies being “exposed to the world at large.”

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. -TMI