Political contributions legal, says DPM on ex-Sime CEO’s defence

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, The Malaysian Insider

PUTRAJAYA, March 15 — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin dismissed former Sime Darby Bhd chief executive Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid’s defence to reveal the conglomerate’s political contributions, saying today corporations are free to contribute to any party in Malaysia.

The deputy prime minister also denied that Sime practises political donations and explained that it is normal for any company to make contributions.

“As a company or any other party, they can make contributions to any party. That is up to the management but we will wait because I do not know what he will reveal and it is not against the law (to give contributions),” he told reporters during a press conference.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider that Ahmad Zubir’s (picture) defence is to call Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, predecessors Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad apart from revealing the hand of some top leaders in the government-linked conglomerate’s decision-making over the years.

This includes political donations during elections and by-elections. There have been 16 by-elections since the last general election in 2008, eight were won by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and the rest by Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

The suit over RM2.1 billion losses incurred by Sime had named Ahmad Zubir and four others, Datuk Mohamad Shukri Baharom, the former executive vice-president of the energy and utilities division; the division’s chief financial officer Abdul Rahim Ismail; the division’s oil and gas unit chief Abdul Kadir Alias; and Mohd Zaki Othman, from Sime Engineering.

The defendants are expected to claim that the conglomerate’s loss-making ventures in Bakun and Qatar were public knowledge to even top government leaders.

“They have all been sued for breaches of duties owed to the Sime Darby Group,” the company said in a statement released on December 23, 2010.

In its statement of claim, Sime alleged that the five accused acted as a “decision-making unit” in the energy and utilities division and were responsible for the division’s actions and omissions.

Sime further alleged that the accused had been grossly negligent for allowing Sime Darby Engineering to pursue engineering, procurement, construction, installation and commissioning (EPCIC) projects in which it had no prior experience.

The five men were also accused of awarding EPCIC jobs to similarly inexperienced subcontractors and for failing to pursue claims for work not done.

Sime’s two suits follow its announcement in September that a forensic audit into the energy and utilities division had established a prima facie case of foul play and a failure to carry out its duties and obligations.

The conglomerate’s woes first came to light in May when then-chief executive Ahmad Zubir was asked to take a leave of absence prior to the expiry of his contract following the discovery of RM964 million in cost overruns from four energy and utilities projects.