Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Star's scoop (and why Malaysia should review its ties with Airbus)

Bangsar, 19 Feb: So, was it an offset program after all? The Star's article (see below  or  type here for link) avoids any reference to the word but if you have been following the Airbus corruption scandal, especially Dr Mahathir Mohamad's initial response to it when asked by the media (Dr M: Offset is not a bribe if it's for specific purpose) on Air Asia being implicated, you will be wondering if the whole thing wasn't an offset after all. But even if it wasn't, let's admit one thing: it was a brilliant strategy. It sure helped turn Air Asia into a global brand although there are enough Tony Fernandes-haters out there to disagree. Me, I remember salivating over the picture of a could-be Caterham motorcycle back then Tony and his partner Kamaruddin Meranun attempted to shock the world with their own F1 team ...

In any case, it's good to know that AirAsia is fighting the Airbus accusation(s). I imagine it will be its toughest battle yet: three authorities - the Malaysian Anti Curruption Commission, the soon-to-be-dissolved Mavcom and the Securities Commission (and one of them clearly holds grudges against Fernandes, Din and Co) - are investigating the case and a small but determined army of Twitter warriors are out to bury Tony Fernandes once and for all. I hate to say that the truth will prevail because it's so cliche but ... the truth will prevail. We'll just have to wait a bit. 
But in the meantime, I strongly feel the Government should suspend all contacts and contracts with Airbus. The aerospace giant is neither a hero nor courageous; by its own admission, it has been a great corruptor. Back home, it has "paid" for its sins. But if it's guilty of bribing anyone here in Malaysia, we should make Airbus pay dearly. 

The Star's scoop:

PETALING JAYA: The directors of the AirAsia Group gave their nod in 2010 to efforts by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes (pic) to build the AirAsia brand through sponsorships, said sources.
The board of AirAsiaX had approved amounts of up to US$250mil sought for a sponsorship strategy via a Formula One racing team.
The sponsorship was a way to lift the AirAsia brand and allow it to be a globally recognisable brand, said a source.
Fernandes and his business partner Datuk Kamarudin Meranun have been under the spotlight for allegations of corruption involving monies paid for the sponsorship of the Caterham Formula 1 racing team after it was reported that Airbus will pay a record-breaking settlement of €3.6bil in penalties after admitting to bribery across its international business.
The UK SFO allegations concern a US$50mil sponsorship between Caterham Formula 1 racing team, which was founded by Fernandes, and Airbus’s former parent, EADS, between the years of 2013 and 2015.
The AirAsia Group has rejected allegations of wrongdoing involving sponsorship of a sports team linked to the two AirAsia and AirAsia X executives.
Part of the documents released after the settlement between Airbus and SFO of the UK include a trail of emails that show the interactions between Airbus and the key decision makers of AirAsia and AirAsia X.
Based on the document findings that have now become public records, the source claims there are mismatches between the timelines of some of the emails released and the charges levied against Airbus by the SFO.
The source said the content of the emails released before October 2013 were not part of the charge against Airbus. Prior to October 2013, AirAsia secured sponsorships totaling US$66mil from Airbus that was not related to the charge brought by the SFO as the sponsorship amounts of an additional US$50mil in the charge sheet were from October 2013 to January 2015.
“Thus, how can emails for sponsorships that had already happened from 2010 to 2011 be used as evidence for sponsorships in 2013 to 2015?” asked the source.
As Airbus has said that the payments to the sports team were intended to secure or reward improper favor by them in respect of that business, the next question to ask is whether Fernandes acted improperly and did he overbuy planes for AirAsia just to secure the sponsorship?
Back in June 2011, AirAsia and Airbus announced a US$18.2bil (RM54.8 billion) deal for 200 planes at the Paris Air show, shattering the then aviation record for the largest ever airline order.
At that time, analysts had seen the acquisition of the 200 aircraft as a necessity, as the last order AirAsia placed was in November 2007.
Even with that order, Frost & Sullivan Aerospace & Defence senior consultant Kunal Sinha (at that time) said the order would only give AirAsia a fleet of 250 aircraft at the end of 2020. AirAsia continued to lease planes after putting in the huge order.
Another question that would be asked surrounds the pricing for the planes secured by AirAsia and AirAsia X from Airbus. An independent audit commissioned by the board would examine those transactions to ascertain if they were fair or overpriced.
“Perhaps Airbus should allow Fernandes to disclose the price of the planes he acquired for the AirAsia group, and compare it to the price Airbus sold its aircraft to other airlines at that time, ” said the source. The suggestion is that AirAsia paid below the average price other airlines had paid when ordering their planes from Airbus.
The SFO too has has a chequered track record as there have been a number of high profile cases that it has lost in the courts.
The SFO’s charges against former Tesco executives, accused of being masterminds behind a major accounting scandal, were thrown out in December after a judge deemed the case too “weak” to face a jury.
The SFO also saw its case against Barclays bank, over a Qatar fundraising, dismissed by the court in 2018. The SFO later lost a high court appeal to reinstate those charges.
Until 2017, former UK prime minister Theresa May had tried to abolish the SFO. She intended to have the SFO absorbed by the larger National Crime Agency.

Read also:
Shooting down Air Asia, the Malaysian whacking culture - Life of Annie
An act of courage - Salleh Buang for NST

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

DAP a liability?

Damansara, 22 Jan 20: After Pakatan Harapan's 5 successive by-election defeats, suddenly the DAP is to blame. Or at least that's the impression you get after finishing this excellent (though, to some people, not quite typical) Johan Jaafar piece Why DAP is a liability to PH
"Johan wrote that? You sure? He sounds almost like most of us."
"Yeah, it's the Tan Sri. Genuine."
"Well, the DAP should have hired him instead of his son. He's got great suggestions on how DAP can NOT be a liability."
"Still can. Two heads better than one, they say."
In short, you like it or not, Malaysia's latest Tokoh Wartawan Negara, got it right this time: "DAP should do a lot of soul searching from now."

Personally, I'm not so sure about his singling out Gobind Deol Singh, the Communications and Multimedia Minister. The other chap - the former Penang Chief Minister who got his corruption charges dropped in 2018 - he named in his article, yes. but Gobind?

Gobind Singh Deo is trying hard to prove his worth, but sadly he is caught in his own ignorance. Believing that PH government is not controlling the media is naïve. Just look at what happened to the group taking over the licenses of the Utusan group of newspapers and the taking over of Media Prima Bhd by a party close to Parti Bersatu. Is he oblivious to that?
Gobind should spend more time working on abolishing many laws that are stifling press freedom and freedom of speech. It was part of the PH manifesto after all to abolish or repeal such laws. Even his good intention to set up a Media Council is being questioned. Why should it be initiated by the government and not the industry? Why the need for a Media Council now in the world of Internet and social media onslaught?

Johan was earlier quoted as describing Gobind's efforts to help set up the Media Council as "futile".

p.s. My thoughts on the Media Council, as one of the members of the protem commitee set up to oversee its establishment, in my next posting.

Friday, January 10, 2020

(That's) Why a politician can't lead the MACC

CBTL BSC, 10 Jan 2020: All manner of big, brave guns with this government, from A. Kadir Jasin to Haniff Kathri, have shelled Latheefa Koya, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief, over her "shocking, sordid and very disturbing" public "hearing" of the Najib Razak tapes. Rais Yatim, a former Information Minister and now Bersatu's supreme council member, thinks the expose could be "prejudicial". "Of what purpose is this? We are not told," Rais says. Kadir, the comms advisor to the PM, believes the expose may cause MACC its credibility. Kathir, often described as the PM's lawyer, doesn't hold back, either.  Ms Koya, he says, has subverted the rule of law by revealing the contents of the nine recordings. 
None, however, has gone to the extent of calling for Ms Koya's resignation. Lawyer Jahaberdeen Yunoos just did:

But you know and I know, only one man can decide if Ms Koya stays or goes. The same man who put her there in the first place, despite a promise by the Pakatan Harapan government never to appoint politicians to government-linked agencies and companies if it was voted in.

Read also:
MACC's Watergate scandal by A Voice
An error of judgement? by Salleh Buang, NST

Monday, January 06, 2020

Don't threaten me lah, OK?

TTDI, 6 Jan: Just a short Thank You note to the Minister for Communications and Multimedia for coming out in support of journalists. It's a dying profession but our professionalism ain't dead. Like you said, YB, the duty of journalists is to report the facts so that the information reaches the people. We're not here to please all. 
I hope Gobind's colleagues remember that before they threaten journalists with not doing the job of their own comms people in highlighting the good things they have done as ministers, deputy ministers of MPs and Aduns. Hopefully, they will also remember the Minister's advice before they issue us with their next letter of demand, threatening us with legal action each time we tread on their toes. 

Read also
TV3 journalist lodges police report over murder threats - Jan 3
Do not threaten journalists, says Gobind - Jan 3

5G's "single entity": Who will own it, ultimately?

And is it another word for monopoly?
KL, 06 Jan 2020: Late in the evening, 31 Dec 2019, as most people were preparing to go out and celebrate the New Year, our guys at the MCMC were working overtime to rush out a press release on the Final report on the allocation of spectrum bands for Mobile Broadband Service in Malaysia. But not everybody appreciated the hard work. "Sneaky,' a journalist told me, "for MCMC to issue such a crucial statement on New Year's eve when everybody was in holiday and party mood." Well, some journalists are more suspicious and cynical than others ...

But a single sentence in the release does stick out like a sore thumb:

The 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands are being considered for allocation to a single entity comprising a consortium formed by multiple licensees, instead of individual licensees.

Is "single entity" another name for monopoly?  

The talk I'm hearing is that the proposal had come from monopoly service provider Telekom Malaysia and Altel, the outfit that belongs to tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary. 

The other industry players were (still are) dead against it. 

On Jan 3, after everyone had come back from the holidays, the Star reported Mixed views on 5G plan. That's a nice way of saying the industry players are NOT in agreement with the MCMC. In fact, last year these players had submitted an "industry proposal" to the MCMC chairman opposing the creation of a single entity. There was a consensus on the matter.

Well, to be fair to the MCMC, it did say the bands" are being considered for allocation to a single entity...", which means there's still room for a change of heart. Or is there? Industry players have been peeved that despite the earlier said consensus, TM had been going around for months giving broad hints about who will lead the country's 5G rollout [read here and here]

The MCMC chairman is scheduled today to have one-on-one meetings with the CEOs of the industry players - Maxis, Celcom, U-Mobile, Digi, TM (webe) and YTL (Yes4G) - on the single entity and allocation of spectrum bands. It will be a long day.

read also
Is TM trying to acquire Altel from Puncak Semangat? - Malaysian Wireless, 22 Nov 2019
MCMC's final report on spectrum puts an end to uncertainties in telco sector - Borneo Post, 4 Jan 2020
MCMC chairman visits TM's 5G standalone network in Langkawi - Digital News Asia, 24 Dec 2019
The rise and rise of Syed Mokhtar Albukhary - KiniBiz, 2013