Isa’s ex-aide confessed to getting RM2 mil from hotel sale, court told

(FMT) – The corruption trial of former Felda chairman Isa Samad heard today that his ex-aide had collected RM2 million as “gratitude” payment after a Felda subsidiary bought a hotel in Kuching.

Boxing coach Mohamad Jani Ismail said Muhammad Zahid Mat Arip, who was a special officer to Isa, had informed him that the money was given to him as gratitude for being the link between the buyer and seller of the property.

Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Felda, purchased the Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites from Gegasan Abadi Properties Sdn Bhd for RM160 million in 2014.

The defence witness said he told Zahid in 2018 that he (Zahid) should be rich as he was at that time the political secretary to then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said Zahid replied that he had previously received RM2 million as gratitude for being the link between the buyer and the vendor in the 2014 sale of the Kuching hotel.

Jani said he had asked Zahid whether Isa knew about this matter and that Zahid had replied in the negative.

Zahid worked as Isa’s special officer from 2011 to 2016. He was made Mahathir’s political secretary soon after the May 2018 general election and remained so until the 22-month-old Pakatan Harapan government collapsed.

Jani said the revelation took place at a hotel in Putrajaya on June 8, 2018, when he and his friend Dahalan Tunggal met Zahid about an investment proposal by a Japanese company.

“We were waiting for the Japanese to arrive and left the room for a smoke. That was when I asked Zahid the question,” he said.

Jani, in his witness statement, said he was testifying in court as the truth must be known and the relationship between Zahid and Isa had been widely reported in social media.

The witness said as a boxing coach for the armed forces, he had known Isa since 1994 when Isa became the president of the Malaysian Boxing Federation.

“I have always visited the accused at his office in the Felda headquarters to discuss boxing matters,” he added.

Cross-examined by deputy public prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz, Jani said he had informed Isa about what Zahid had told him at the meeting in the hotel.

However, he said Isa pleaded ignorance but did not advise him to lodge a report with the police or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Jani disagreed with Afzainizam’s suggestion that he was fabricating a story and that Zahid, in fact, had not told him about receiving RM2 million.

He also denied he was giving evidence in favour of Isa as they were good friends.

Isa has been ordered to enter his defence on nine corruption charges of receiving over RM3 million in kickbacks for approving the purchase of the hotel in 2014.

The defence, led by Salehuddin Saidin, closed its case today after calling six witnesses

Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali then directed the defence and prosecution to file their written submissions on Oct 2.

He also fixed Nov 4 to hear oral submissions.