Felda's ex-chairman remanded for 5 days

Mohd Isa Samad (in orange), who was appointed Felda chief in 2011 but replaced in January this year, arriving at the Putrajaya court complex yesterday for his remand hearing. The probe allegedly involved the land agency overpaying by hundreds of mill
Mohd Isa Samad (in orange), who was appointed Felda chief in 2011 but replaced in January this year, arriving at the Putrajaya court complex yesterday for his remand hearing. The probe allegedly involved the land agency overpaying by hundreds of millions of ringgit for two hotels in London and Sarawak.PHOTO: FOTOBERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA • Former Felda chairman Mohd Isa Samad has been remanded for five days to help in a corruption probe, allegedly involving the land agency overpaying by hundreds of millions of ringgit for two hotels in London and Sarawak.

His arraignment is closely watched in Malaysia because Felda is a government agency that looks after some 1.2 million Malay farmers and their multigenerational families, who are mostly staunch voters of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. These families form the majority of voters in 54, or nearly a quarter, of the 222 Malaysian parliamentary constituencies.

Yesterday, 68-year old Isa exchanged his usual mustard-coloured jacket for the orange lock-up T-shirt of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as he arrived at the Putrajaya court complex.

He was closely guarded by investigators due to the sizeable crowd waiting for him. Among those present outside the court was his wife, Ms Bibi Sharliza Mohd Khalid.

The court granted an application by the MACC to have Isa, a powerful Umno politician, held for five more days to help in investigations.

Isa was arrested on Tuesday evening at the MACC headquarters, where he had gone to after being called up to give a statement.

Isa's former aide, Muhammad Zahid Md Arip, and former chief executive of Felda Investment Corporation (FIC) Zaid Abdul Jalil were previously remanded for questioning in connection with the two properties acquired in 2014.

FIC, Felda's investment arm, is alleged to have purchased the Park City Hotel in Kensington, London, for RM330 million (S$105 million), thrice its supposed market value, while a four-star property in Kuching, Sarawak, was bought for RM160 million, when it was supposedly worth RM110 million.

Isa, once Negeri Sembilan's chief minister, was appointed Felda chief in 2011, but was replaced in January this year after financial problems and the dismal performance of the agency and its listed arm Felda Global Ventures resulted in rising debt among the 112,000 first-generation families that have settled on Felda land.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2017, with the headline 'Felda's ex-chairman remanded for 5 days'. Print Edition | Subscribe