By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 ― Today’s prosecution of PKR’s Rafizi Ramli over his exposé on the RM250 million National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal will frighten away future whistleblowers, DAP MP Tony Pua has said, adding that it showed Barisan Nasional’s (BN) reform agenda was “pure hogwash”.
The Petaling Jaya Utara MP said Rafizi’s court charge, which comes just over a year after the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 was enacted, would deal a serious blow to public perception of the government’s seriousness in weeding out corruption.
Pua pointed to what he described as a complete lack of urgency in bringing criminal charges against former minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil over the NFC, saying this was prove that Najib was bent on protecting the powerful in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition he leads.
“Rafizi’s persecution will mark the death knell for the Act as no whistleblower will have any trust in the system to protect their interest.
“Such blatant abuse of power will only confirm in the eyes of the world that Najib’s reform agenda is pure hogwash,” Pua said in a statement here.
Rafizi, who is PKR’s strategy director and the man spearheading the NFC exposés, 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).
The firm, owned by Shahrizat’s family members, 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 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 election that must be held by April next year when the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s mandate expires.
The NFCorp and the cattle farming scandal hit the headlines last year when the Auditor-General reported that it had missed its 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.
Today, Pua also questioned why only Mohamad Salleh has been charged in court, and even then, only for two key charges ― misappropriating RM40 million of NFC’s money, and acquiring two units of luxury condominium in One Menerung, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur for RM13.5 million.
He said this was despite the fact the NFC’s last audited accounts had shown that more than RM110 million was allegedly misappropriated by the NFCorp’s directors to set up a global chain of companies under their individual names.
Pua further pointed out that Rafizi had also alleged that Shahrizat’s family acquired three luxury condominiums in Singapore worth some RM45 million, as well as a villa in Kazakhstan.
“However, none of these assets have been frozen by the Malaysian authorities and none of the other directors have been charged despite holding various key positions in NFC, including the son, Izran Salleh who is the chief executive officer of NFCorp,” he said.
“Instead of pursuing the culprits who have abused the RM250 million government soft loan extended to NFC, the government has chosen to exact revenge on the whistleblower Rafizi who play the integral role in uncovering the lid on the litany of gross abuses by Shahrizat’s family,” he added.
Pua said despite Rafizi’s charges today, DAP and its leaders will continue to expose all alleged misdeeds and wrongdoings committed by BN leaders.