by Din Merican
In the early 1990s, Tajuddin Ramli was the poster boy of then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s plan for Bumiputera wealth creation. He was the iconic bumiputera businessman and a key “payung” (mentor) for other bumiputera entrepreneurs. For that he was practically handed the post of President of the Malay Chamber of Commerce.
Tajuddin would inspire the Malays to achieve the 30% bumiputera equity which was the target under the now controversial New Economic Policy. The economic objective to eliminate poverty amongst the Malays and give them a share of the economic pie became the primary means for enrich ing only a few Malays , especially those associated with the dominant ruling party, UMNO and their cronies (crony capitalism). An economic pie meant for the Malays who constitute 50% of Malaysia’s population of 27 million people would now be in the hands of only a handful of Malays. Now that can be a big pie!
Making Obscene Money under Crony Capitalism
In 1994, Tajuddin was handed on a silver platter control of the national airlines, Malaysia Airline System Bhd (MAS). MAS was flushed with cash then. To be exact, according to various reports, including the MACC report made by the MASKargo’s Managing Director, Shahari Sulaiman, MAS had RM600 million in cash. That was a lot of money at that time. By 2001, Tajuddin had to leave and MAS was burdened with a RM8 billion debt. That was a lot of money to lose at that time. Despite the losses, the government bought back MAS from Tajuddin at RM8 per share when the market price at that time was just slightly below RM4 per share. That was a 100% profit for Tajuddin. That was a lot of money to make after having caused MAS to lose RM8 billion!
Tajuddin sued MAS
So, MAS sued Tajuddin Ramli and his cohorts. According to the reports, the former Chairman counter sued several parties including Danaharta and the Government of Malaysia for RM13.6 billion. In his counter suit, Tajuddin alleged that he was just a government agent and nominee. By his rationale, he did nothing wrong. If he plundered, he did so with the government’s blessings. So, what’s wrong with that? After all, Abdullah Badawi also did the same thing in the LSG Skychef- Ibrahim Badawi deal with MAS!
Then last month, in a filing to Bursa Malaysia, MAS announced that Tajuddin had also filed a countersuit for RM 500 million claiming that he had been defamed by MAS when MAS complained to the MACC. That Bursa filing also disclosed that Tajuddin’s countersuit was in retaliation for MAS suing him for various breaches of fiduciary and statutory duties and for defrauding MAS in several related party transactions.
I was getting a bit loss there because MAS Bursa’s filing said that MAS wanted damages against Tajudin for RM174,620,695.00 for the losses caused by Tajuddin in the Hahn Airport project and for an indemnity for the amount MAS had to pay to an ICC Arbitration involving ACL Advanced Cargo Logistics GmbH. As far as MAS is concerned, ACL is a Tajudin camouflaged company. Instead, Tajuddin wants RM500 million from MAS for having caused MAS to suffer that loss? Now this is becoming a bit dizzy. Tajuddin caused loss to MAS and yet he now wants MAS to pay him because MAS complained against him to the MACC? Does that make sense to you? Maybe, but not to me.
Then it all began to make sense when RPK’s postings on September 8 and September 14 showed that Tajuddin had claimed in his court papers, in his affidavit to be exact, that he was given immunity by UMNO. Then it all made further sense when RPK posted letters from Tajuddin’s lawyers, Messrs Lim Kian Leong, that Tajuddin is seeking a “Global Settlement” with the assistance of the Courts in a “‘mediation process”.