Friday, August 11, 2023

The truth behind Halim Saad’s lawsuit against Dr Mahathir & his “Top Cat”

Bukit Kiara, 11 Aug: Just when I thought I had covered all the lawsuits that are keeping our lawyers and judges busy these days, here comes a big one: Halim Saad vs Nor Mohamed Yakcop aka the Top Cat and Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself! 

Halim, we all know, was once Mahathir’s the poster boy of Mahathir’s privatization policy (and, to some, Umno’s capital cronyism). So far and wide was Halim’s corporate reach back in the day he even helmed the New Straits Times Press and TV3 during Nineties when whoever controlled the media controlled the hearts and minds of the voters. His reign in that media conglomerate was brief and stormy, though, and preceded a management buy out by the Empat Budak Melayu, which was seen as a proxy war between the powerful Daim and the then Finance Minister and Umno deputy president Anwar Ibrahim. 

The SCOOP’s Aug 9 scoop puts Halim’s lawsuit in the following context:

KUALA LUMPUR – The true story behind the controversial RM2.3 billion Renong-UEM deal is expected to be unravelled in court following a suit by Tan Sri Halim Saad against former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former finance minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, and the government of Malaysia.

Halim, in his suit filed today in the high court here, claimed that the then Mahathir-led government and Umno – some 26 years ago – had forced the acquisition of the company, which eventually led to its collapse.

Halim is seeking a declaration that he was the beneficial and legal owner of Renong shares and not Umno Baru; a declaration that the government compulsorily acquired his vested right to effect a general offer on UEM; and a declaration that, with respect to the said acquisition of his vested right, the government had acted through Mahathir and Nor Yakcop.

He is also seeking a declaration that, in acquiring his vested right, the government was obliged to provide him with adequate compensation.

Halim was Renong’s executive chairman. 

In a statement today, Halim said the then-government’s plan to take over UEM and eventually privatise it would not have been possible without his support, which he was obliged to provide. 

“I was instructed by (Mahathir) in his capacity as the then prime minister and (Nor Yakcop) in his capacity as the special economic adviser to (Mahathir) not to proceed with the acquisition of 32.69% of Renong from UEM pursuant to a put option exercised on me by UEM in December 2000. 

“I was also instructed by (Mahathir) and (Nor Yakcop) not to proceed to undertake a take-over of UEM, which I was about to undertake with Renong jointly. 

“Instead, I was required by (Mahathir) and (Nor Yakcop) to support the government’s initiative and or plan, through Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s wholly-owned subsidiary company Danasaham Sdn Bhd, to undertake the take-over of UEM via a general offer,” Halim said. 

He added that the collective and concerted actions of the defendants resulted in his loss of control of Renong, which also meant the indirect loss of control of UEM and its “highly valuable assets”. 

The assets he named include the North-South Expressway (PLUS) project, the Elite Expressway, the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link Expressway (LINKEDUA), Pharmaniaga Bhd, Intria Bina Sdn Bhd, Ho Hup Construction Sdn Bhd, and Kualiti Alam Sdn Bhd. 

He said he had suffered financial losses as a direct result of the defendants’ action, which constituted a breach of his constitutional rights under the federal constitution.

Halim’s suit filed today comes after he unsuccessfully sued the government, Khazanah, and Nor Yakcop in 2013 for RM1.8 billion.  

In November 1997, the nation’s biggest infrastructure firm, UEM, purchased a 33% stake in its heavily-in-debt parent, Renong, for RM2.3 billion, leading to Renong’s value plummeting as investors dumped shares in both firms.

Following public uproar over the deal, which was said to be in opposition to stock exchange reporting rules, the Securities Commission urged Halim, as the controlling shareholder of Renong, to buy back the stake from UEM, with payments to be made between February 2001 and April 2002. 

However, in July 2001, the government determined that Khazanah Nasional would take over the entire Renong group – including a RM12 billion debt – for RM4 billion. – August 9, 2023

In May, Dr Mahathir’s filed a defamation suit against Anwar Ibrahim over the PMX’s purported claim that the former Prime Minister had used his position to enrich himself and his family members.That’s the other context Halim’s lawsuit, if you like.

Halim’s court action against the former PM won’t be the last, I’m hearing. Tajudin Ramli, the founder of Celcom and former owner of Malaysia Airlines, may follow suit, pardon the pun.

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