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Malaysia charges former chairman of palm agency Felda over graft

Malaysia charges former chairman of palm agency Felda over graft
FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a logo of Felda in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo   -   Copyright  Lai Seng Sin(Reuters)
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KUALALUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian prosecutors on Friday charged a former chairman of state palm plantation agency Felda with breach of trust and receiving bribes, the most senior official hit by accusations of graft that led to millions of ringgit in losses.

FGV Holdings Bhd and its parent, the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) have both faced accusations of corruption and poor management for two years, leading to large debts, leadership tussles and tumbling share prices.

Prosecutors charged Mohamad Isa Abdul Samad with one count of criminal breach of trust and nine counts of receiving bribes of 3 million ringgit (568,204.46 pounds) over the purchase of a Malaysian hotel while he was in charge of Felda.

Mohamad Isa, who led Felda from 2011 to 2017, was accused of approving the 160-million-ringgit purchase without seeking approval from the agency’s board, and received the bribes in payment for enabling the deal, the charge sheets seen by Reuters showed.

Mohamad Isa pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and was released on bail of 800,000 ringgit, domestic media said. If found guilty of the offences, he could face a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of at least 10,000 ringgit.

Mohamad Isa did not answer telephone calls from Reuters to seek comment.

In September, Felda’s current chairman said the state agency would sell assets, including properties and hotels, and restructure loans in a bid to boost its cashflow and trim debts of nearly $2 billion (1.59 billion pounds).

Mohamad Isa, who was also a former chairman of listed firm FGV, was arrested last year by Malaysia’s anti-graft commission to help investigations into two hotel purchases made by a unit of Felda.

He was replaced as Felda’s chairman in early 2017 after the agency drew criticism over what was deemed an overpriced purchase in Indonesian palm oil firm PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk.

He was later replaced as chairman of FGV after a leadership tussle with the company’s chief executive and investigations over a letter of credit issued for a transaction at an FGV subsidiary, in a move seen as a breach of regular procedure.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Emily Chow; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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