There is still much explaining to do about the Cowgate scandal and the unpaid RM248m loan from public funds, says Corruption Watch.
Now that criminal charges have finally been brought against former Prime Minister Najib Razak, former 1MDB head Arul Kanda and other formerly invincible kleptocrats, it would seem that justice is near.
But what about the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), whose executive chairman Mohamad Salleh Ismail is the husband of the former Umno women’s wing chief, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil?
In the infamous ‘Cowgate’ scandal, a PricewaterhouseCoopers audit report in 2012 found that RM108m out of a RM250m government soft loan was allegedly transferred from NFC to three companies personally owned by Salleh and his children. These companies later bought land in Putrajaya and luxury properties. They also allegedly made “questionable” payments, including for personal shopping and rental payment for a flat in London.
Salleh was charged with two counts of criminal breach of trust and two of misuse of company funds. But the charges were withdrawn several months after a change of attorney general in 2015 in the wake of 1MDB media revelations.
Shahrizat herself was cleared by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in 2012 and awarded a Tan Sri title in 2016.
A spine-chilling fact: If BN had actually won the 9 May 2018 election, Shahrizat would have become a powerful BN cabinet minister. Fortunately, BN lost in a humiliating landslide, and Shahrizat quietly retired from politics.
Last year, the Ministry of Finance confirmed that the NFC still owes the government more than RM248m that they never paid back to the Malaysian people.
Instead of strategically scaling the assets required to successfully grow a cattle export business for Malaysia’s food security, the NFC and those behind it left behind a large unpaid loan.
Last February, investigative journalists discovered that “no cows and no workers were spotted at the 600ha NFC site in Gemas, Negri Sembilan, where RM250m in public funds was sunk into a project that has since been left to rot”.
The Cowgate scandal was so unethical that today it is used in international business schools literally as a textbook case study on poor ethical corporate leadership.
Justice should not be denied here. Those responsible for the unpaid NFC loan should face a fresh investigation (as proposed by a minister last May), and if solid evidence is unearthed, a fresh court trial to examine the paper trail of the NFC funds.
Those investigated will inevitably complain that any new trial is “political revenge”, but they still have much to explain about the Cowgate scandal and the unpaid RM248m loan from public funds.
It is an astounding tale. But now, Malaysia’s rule of law must prevail.
Corruption Watch is a reader of Aliran.