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The RM32.5 Million Is Our Money, Says Halim Saad
January 16, 2006 22:30 PM

By Sabarina Baharom

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 (Bernama) -- Prominent businessman Tan Sri Halim Saad Monday denied that he and his former business partner, Datuk Anuar Othman had siphoned RM32.5 million from a toll operator.

Halim also denied that they had patronage of former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, who was said to have conspired with them to oppress a construction company which was awarded about RM65 million by the Court of Appeal on Thursday in compensation for loss of advertising rights in a suit against Metramac Corporation Sdn Bhd over the privatisation of a number of roads here.

"I have kept silent thus far as the matter is pending appeal. But the nature of the judgment and the comments from the media have made it necessary for me to react by making this statement," he said in response to media coverage and public comments on the judgment.

Judge Datuk Gopal Sri Ram in his judgment also ordered Metramac to pay Fawziah Holdings Sdn Bhd all proceeds to be received under future contract.

Halim, explaining why he took "this unusual step" of issuing the nine-page press statement, said the judgment had damaged him "probably in an irreparable way".

"I am deprived of this basic natural justice and human rights which had been recognised since biblical times. I have large business interest locally and overseas," he said.

Halim in his statement also attached a letter from the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Works dated Feb 13, 1992 which said that the government had agreed to reimburse Metro Juara Sdn Bhd or Metramac as it was then known, a company owned by Halim and Anuar, RM32.5 million because the amount was not taken into account by the government in determining the project return under the concession agreement.

"The money was ours personally as we extended this sum earlier from our own pockets. By no stretch of the imagination was this money belonging to Metramac. So where is the misappropriation, criminal or otherwise? This was what counsel for Metramac explained in a gist to the court. Why was the explanation stupefying to the court?" Halim asked.

Halim said on Feb 13, 1992, Daim was no longer the Finance Minister as he resigned from the post on March 14, 1991.

"Tun Daim was not involved in the decision of the Ministry of Works to reimburse this amount to us. The judge should take judicial notice of Daim's resignation date, if he was entering into that discussion".

Halim said his company was ordered by the government to take over Metramac as the toll concession at Jalan Cheras here had become so political and tense and toll collection was suspended on Sept 12, 1990 following a demonstration at the toll plaza.

He explained that the original concession agreement was virtually frustrated by this event and Metro Juara was asked to buy Metramac shares at market value plus a premium on them for an additional amount of RM32.5 million.

"My personal opinion then was that the RM32.5 million was not payable to the previous shareholders. But the government asked us to pay that amount and we could only manage a silent protest," he said.

Halim said this was the same RM32.5 million that the Works Ministry decided to reimburse him and his partner as stated in the letter of Feb 13, 1992.

"For the information of the public, we were reluctant when we were told by the government to take over a company that was in a serious mess and was no longer bankable. But, as it was of public interest, the government had no option but to move forward".

"We took over the projects (with other additional works) and the whole revised projects were repackaged to achieve a bankable internal rate of return. We were probably chosen because by then our track record of the North South Highway was proven," Halim said.

Halim said he knew for a fact that the decision for them to take over Metramac was made by the Cabinet itself after due deliberation and after the new revised agreement was entered into between Metramac and Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur, the Works Ministry and the Federal Treasury monitored every step of the progress in the negotiation.

"It is critical to bear in mind that this is not a compensation to Metramac. It was a scheme of subsidy to complement and to enable the expanded additional works to be financially workable to both the government and Metramac.

"To suggest that a few hundred millions were simply paid to Metramac without justification is to discredit the government and its officers (including those from the Attorney-General's Chambers) who negotiated the agreement," he said.

Halim said all payments received under the new revised agreement and the account subsidy agreement were retained in Metramac and disbursed in accordance with the agreement.

He said none of the funds received amounting to RM466.7 million was taken by him or Anuar or Metro Juara.

Halim said the subsidy was not a lump sum payment and it was disbursed commensurating with the proportional progress of the new additional works being completed.

He also said that in the subsidy account agreement, a special account was created by the government where government representatives from the Federal Treasury acted as co-signatory to all the bank accounts.

"Does this sound like day-light robbery as is suggested in the judgment," he asked.

The case involved Datuk Fawziah Abdul Karim and her mother Maimom Bee, who were directors and shareholders of Syarikat Teratai K.G. Sdn Bhd (STKG), now known as Metramac.

Fawziah succeeded in obtaining a tender to design, construct and operate the privatisation of a number of roads, including one at Jalan Cheras here for which toll collection was later suspended.

As a result, compensation of RM764 million was payable by Kuala Lumpur City Hall but the judge said Daim as the then Finance Minister told the shareholders that the government did not have the money to compensate them.

STKG was then bought over by Metro Juara, owned by Halim and Anuar, for RM97.5 million.

The judge said after this transaction, the government suddenly found the funds to compensate Metro Juara.

Sri Ram had said in his judgment: " You may well ask how all this could have happened without the direct involvement of Tun Daim. It is also incomprehensible why the defendant, as it was constituted immediately before the takeover by Metro Juara, was not given this same financial support by the Federal Government".

"I think it is a fair question to ask why tax payers' money was chanelled into the hands of two private individuals --to profit them-- instead of a wider section of the general public".

The judge said that Halim and Anuar had siphoned from the defendant's account RM32.5 million.


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