Friday 24 May 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (April 3): Tan Sri Robert Tan Hua Choon on Wednesday claimed trial to cheating the Finance Ministry over a contract to supply, maintain, and manage government fleet cars worth RM3.966 billion.

Tan, 83, is charged with cheating the ministry’s private and public cooperation unit between Feb 27 and 28, 2019, for misrepresenting that Spanco Sdn Bhd has at least 30% bumiputera interests in the tender process, resulting in the company securing the contract. The charge sheet, however, did not provide details on what was allegedly false about the bumiputera equity. 

If convicted, the charge under Section 420 of the Penal Code calls for a mandatory jail time of at least one year and up to 10 years, as well as a fine. The law also stipulates whipping, though Tan will likely be spared from the punishment due to his old age.

Tan, also known as the Casio King for his company's exclusive distribution of Casio-branded watches, is represented by Datuk Wan Azmir Wan Majid and Amin Othman, although Wan Azmir indicated that the lead counsel would be Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik. 

Deputy public prosecutor Mahadi Jumaat led the prosecution. Counsel Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, meanwhile, held a watching brief on behalf of Spanco.

Lawyer Datuk Wan Azmir Wan Majid, who represents the 'Casio King'. (Photo by Suhaimi Yusuf/The Edge)

The prosecution requested bail of RM2 million with one surety and that his passport be surrendered in court, and demanded that Tan not interfere with potential witnesses in the case as well as report to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office once a month until the case concludes.

Wan Azmir noted that Tan has health issues, including hypertension and knee and back pain, that require him to use a cane to support himself. "I request that bail be reduced as the one who is posting bail is his own son," he said.

However, Sessions Court judge Suzana Hussin set the bail at RM2 million, and asked Tan to surrender his international passport. 

“The court also directs the accused not to interfere [with] or contact potential witnesses in the case. This court sets June 4 for the case management,” she said.

Tan posted bail at 12.30pm and had no comment when approached by reporters.

After posting bail, Tan Sri Robert Tan Hua Choon leaves the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex. (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

MACC recorded statement from former finance minister

Ahead of the formal charge, the MACC had said it recorded statements from an unidentified former finance minister for the case.

Lim Guan Eng was in charge of the ministry when the contract was awarded to Cekap Urus Sdn Bhd in 2019.  

Cekap Urus — a joint venture between Berjaya Corp Bhd, Naza Corp Holdings Sdn Bhd and Tunku Tun Aminah Sultan Ibrahim Ismail — was given the letter of intent (LOI) by the Finance Ministry earlier for the government fleet car contract.

Berjaya controls 51% in the joint venture, and Naza holds 29%, while the daughter of Malaysia’s current King has 20%.

However, the government cancelled the LOI dated Dec 11, 2019, and gave the contract to Spanco instead, leading to Cekap Urus challenging the termination through a still ongoing judicial review.

Cekap Urus is seeking to invalidate the LOI termination, and the company is also asking the court for a declaration that the government and the ministry’s decision to award Spanco the fleet project through direct negotiation is invalid, null and void, and has no effect.

The joint venture is seeking a certiorari order to quash the government’s decision on Jan 25 this year in dismissing Cekap Urus' appeal against the decision to terminate the LOI. Further, it is also requesting a mandamus order to compel the government to execute the letter awarded to Cekap Urus.

Further, Cekap Urus is seeking a stay of the government and ministry’s decision pending determination of the matter, as well as damages and costs to be assessed.

On Aug 23 last year, Cekap Urus obtained leave from the Kuala Lumpur High Court though the hearing for the judicial review has yet to start.

Edited ByJason Ng & Surin Murugiah
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