Former Felda chairman arrested in graft probe

Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad was replaced as Felda chairman in January.
Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad was replaced as Felda chairman in January.

KUALA LUMPUR • The former chairman of Malaysia's troubled land-development agency was arrested yesterday in an ongoing probe into alleged overpayment of hundreds of millions in ringgit for hotel buys during his time in charge.

Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, a senior figure in ruling party Umno, was detained after a two hours of questioning yesterday afternoon at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in connection with the controversial purchases by a subsidiary of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).

"He has been detained to facilitate the investigation," deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki told The Straits Times.

However, he did not divulge more details ahead of a remand hearing expected today.

If convicted with abuse of power under the MACC Act, Mr Isa could face up to 20 years in jail.

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

 

FIC, a Felda subsidiary, 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.

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

Felda has given land and subsidies to settlers since 1956, and the multigenerational families are a crucial vote bank in 54 parliamentary wards - nearly a quarter of the entire legislature - for the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Former Felda chairman arrested in graft probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe