Ex-MRCB chief ordered to pay ex-Realmild director RM10m over ‘Umno trust’ suit

(MM) – Former Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Maidin (pix) was today ordered by the Court of Appeal to pay the remaining RM10 million owed to his ex-colleague, Datuk Khalid Ahmad, for purchasing Khalid’s shares in Realmild Sdn Bhd.

The appellate court’s ruling effectively upholds the High Court’s 2010 decision dismissing the notion of an Umno trust over the disputed sale of of a block of Realmild Sdn Bhd shares.

The shadowy company had been alleged to be owned by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition’s lynchpin to protect its business interests, since its set-up by four Malay newspapermen-turned-corporate players in the early 1990s.

Realmild, originally a RM2 company, had held a controlling stake in several conglomerates, including the public-listed MRCB that is behind the KL Sentral commercial and transport hub in Brickfields, and publisher, New Straits Times Press Berhad.

Rahman had counter-sued Khalid in the High Court for misrepresenting the true ownership in a bid to claim back a RM5 million payment after being told by then-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Realmild “belonged to Umno” and that all shareholders were only nominees.

The once high-flying corporate captain lost his appeal today.

“We find the findings are fair and reasonable, particularly in the amount and the (issue of the) nominee,” Justice Datuk Mohd Hishamuddin Mohd Yunus said in the Court of Appeal here today.

The three-man panel of appeal court judges dismissed Abdul Rahman’s appeal with RM10,000 in costs.

Rahman’s lawyer, Alex De Silva, said in response that he would wait for instructions from his client on whether they would appeal to the Federal Court.

Khalid stressed that he was not an Umno nominee for his shares in Realmild, which Abdul Rahman had used as the basis for not paying him back the remaining RM10 million after his first payment of RM5 million.

“It’s not Umno shares. It’s my shares for the work I did,” Khalid told reporters after the hearing.

“Whether my friends paid for it doesn’t matter. It’s mine. It’s not true that we’re just the medium,” he added.

Realmild, originally a RM2 company, was formed in 1992 to control the NSTP and broadcaster Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Berhad through MRCB.

A letter of indebtedness dated July 19, 1999, stated that Abdul Rahman was to pay Khalid RM10 million for the 5 per cent Realmild stake in two instalments.

Rahman paid Khalid — who was then the managing director of NSTP — RM5 million within two weeks after the letter was written.

Khalid’s lawyer, Ahmad Fadzil Mohd Perdaus, told the court today that his client had clarified to Rahman that the price for the shares in total was RM15 million, and not RM10 million.

But Rahman had refused to pay the remaining RM10 million to Khalid, saying that at the end of 2001, he was instructed by Dr Mahathir to transfer all the 7.1 million Realmild shares in his name — which Rahman had purchased from the four men — to Tan Sri Syed Anwar Jamalullail, who is the younger brother to the Raja of Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, without any consideration.

Rahman has said that he then informed Dr Mahathir that he had paid RM40 million for the purchase of the Realmild shares.

But the then-prime minister had allegedly told him that “there was no reason” why  Rahman had to pay the RM40 million, as the shares “never belonged to the individuals concerned”, but to Umno.

“Therefore, he said no payment will be made to me because the shares always belonged to Umno,” Rahman had said, according to court documents.

Recalling how he came to own the Realmild shares, Rahman has testified that he was approached by the then Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, sometime in 1999, as to whether he was interested in taking charge of MRCB by undertaking and completing a management takeover.

Rahman said he then purchased all the stakes in Realmild from Khalid; former Berita Harian Sdn Bhd group editor Ahmad Nazri Abdullah; former New Straits Times Sdn Bhd group editor Datuk Abdul Kadir Jasin; and former NSTP senior group general manager (production and circulation) Mohd Noor Mutalib.

The four were, at that time, aligned with then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, before the latter fell out of favour with Dr Mahathir in 1998.

Khalid has maintained that the 5 per cent stake was his own, although he acknowledged that the majority stake was part of an “Umno trust”.

Nazri has testified that 70 per cent of his shares was held on behalf of Dr Mahathir.