Tajudin’s RM500mil suit against MAS a sign of a brokered deal?

Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Pakatan Rakyat leaders expressed concern the RM500 million defamation suit brought by fallen tycoon Tajudin Ramli against national carrier MAS was a sign that a deal had been brokered with top Umno leaders to stop further dirt from hitting the fan over the RM8 billion in losses Tajudin allegedly racked up when he was chairman of the airline.

“If Tajudin is really concerned about his reputation, he should support the call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Then everything will really come out and if he is innocent, he will be cleared,” PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub told Malaysia Chronicle.

Tajudin, a former poster boy for the Umno-led government’s New Economic Policy, hit the headlines recently after the political opposition demanded that Prime Minister Najib Razak take action against him to recover the huge losses suffered by MAS in 1990s.

The Pakatan had planned to submit a memorandum to the King to establish a royal inquiry after the government failed to act despite MAS lodging police reports in 2002 and 2005. The carrier also lodged a 7-page detailed complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in May 2009, but the MACC has tossed the hot potato back to the police.


“It is obvious those involved are afraid that more of their secret wheeling-and-dealing will be exposed. At RM8 billion, the MAS debacle is even greater than the Port Klang Free Zone and here the link to the top Umno leaders is clearer,” Salahuddin said.

At least two prime ministers and a finance minister

Indeed, two former prime ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Badawi are involved as well as former finance minister Daim Zainuddin. Tajudin was MAS chairman from 1994 to 2001.

The tycoon given special opportunity to buy a controlling stake in MAS from Bank Negara at RM8 ringgit per share as part of Mahathir’s grand plan to create a new breed of Malay entrepreneurs to challenge the Chinese in the corporate sector.

But several large deals that Tajudin swung for his family and cronies led to huge losses and the already debt-ridden airline found itself at the brink of bankruptcy, requiring a government bailout in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Mahathir was heavily criticized for buying back Tajudin’s stake at RM8 per share in 2000 on Daim’s advice, even though by then the stock price had already halved to RM3.68.

Badawi was also accused of having benefited from MAS during Tajudin’s time. His brother Fahim Ibrahim obtained an option to buy 51-percent of MAS Catering, which Fahim later on-sold to Lufthansa’s LSG Skychef at an exorbitant profit.