Sabah Foundation sues former CM Musa Aman for RM872m from timber contracts

Sabah Foundation director Datuk Jamalul Kiram Mohd Zakaria at the press conference in Kota Kinabalu June 19, 2020. — Picture courtesy of Sabah Foundation
Sabah Foundation director Datuk Jamalul Kiram Mohd Zakaria at the press conference in Kota Kinabalu June 19, 2020. — Picture courtesy of Sabah Foundation

KOTA KINABALU, June 19 — Sabah Foundation, a state body and its largest timber concession holder, disclosed today that it was suing former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman for RM872 million it claimed was lost through dubious awards.

Foundation director Datuk Jamalul Kiram Mohd Zakaria said the lawsuit was logged in the judiciary’s e-filing system on June 16.

“The board of trustees has solid reasons to believe that Musa used his position as the chairman of the board of trustees then to order one of the foundation’s statutory bodies — Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd into timber businesses,” he said.

Jamalul was speaking to reporters at a press conference today.

He alleged Musa had failed as the chairman of the board of trustees to fulfil his fiduciary responsibility to protect the interest of Sabah Foundation, which was formed to provide educational opportunities and facilities to Sabahans.

In the statement of claim, the foundation asserted that Musa, whose tenure as chairman coincided with his terms as the chief minister from March 27 2003 till May 2018, had engineered a scheme for personal gains by systematically selling off its concession areas to selected or nominated companies for between RM1,600 and RM2,000 per hectare.

The statement also said that further to the fraudulent scheme and in breach of his fiduciary duty, Musa had employed businessman Michael Chia to negotiate the business transactions for ill gotten gains.

“In order to conceal these illegal activities from the plaintiff and authorities, all these ill gotten monies procured under the fraudulent scheme was diverted from the purchasers to companies in tax free countries like the British Virgin Islands and then to Chia’s bank accounts in HSBC Bank and UBS bank in Singapore and Hong Kong.

“They were then later again diverted from Chia to a Richard Christopher Barnes who was Musa’s personal advisor then,” it said.

The claim said that Chia was reportedly paid US$42 million (RM179 million at current rates) and US$90 million on separate occasions and prior to his arrest in Hong Kong with RM16 million in cash.

The money was said to have been transferred to Umno Sabah to save himself from criminal prosecution.

It noted that in the 30 charges the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had filed against Musa, the former CM had been accused of receiving some RM263 million from numerous lumber companies who were granted concessions, some of which were diverted to his sons studying in Perth at the time.

On June 9, Musa was acquitted and discharged on all the 30 counts of corruption mentioned above along with another 16 related charges of money laundering.

“By reason of his numerous breaches of duty, the Foundation had suffered substantial loss and damages,” it said.

The foundation is seeking reparations to the tune of RM872 million along with interests and costs.

The foundation’s lawyer, Datuk Douglas Lind, said they were still in the process of serving the suit.

“We think we have a strong case. The board wouldn’t file the suit if we didn’t,” he said.

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