Former Umno warlord convicted of bribery over hotel deal, jailed six years

Former Umno warlord Isa Samad was granted a stay of execution for the sentence pending an appeal.
Former Umno warlord Isa Samad was granted a stay of execution for the sentence pending an appeal.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - Former Umno warlord Isa Samad was sentenced to six years' jail on Wednesday (Feb 3) after he was convicted of corruption by the Malaysian High Court.

The case centred on a hotel deal inked while he was in charge of the country's key land development agency, Felda.

Justice Nazlan Mohd Ghazali found the former politician guilty on nine counts of receiving gratification amounting to RM3 million (S$987,000) between 2014 and 2015. He was also fined a total of RM15.45 million by the court.

Isa was granted a stay of execution for the sentence pending an appeal. He was ordered to post bail of RM1.5 million by Thursday, and to report to the nearest police station once a month until the conclusion of his appeal.

The High Court found that Isa received the bribes when he approved the purchase of Merdeka Palace Hotel, a five-star hotel, for RM160 million in 2014. The hotel was reportedly valued at only RM110 million at the time of the sale.

He was also charged with criminal breach of trust (CBT), but was acquitted on this charge by the court.

"The defence's arguments are inconsistent and appears to be an afterthought," Justice Nazlan said in delivering his verdict, saying that the prosecution had proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Nazlan - who was transferred to commercial court last month - also convicted former prime minister Najib Razak of corruption in July.

Before completing his transfer, the judge will continue to preside over a couple of other high-profile cases around the scandal-ridden state investment firm, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), including another CBT case involving Najib.

Isa, 71, is the third high-profile member of the former Barisan Nasional administration to be convicted of graft - after a raft of corruption charges were brought against several former top government officials following Pakatan Harapan's shock victory in the 2018 elections.

He is a former Umno vice-president, who quit the party in 2018 and later contested the Port Dickson by-election as an independent. He was Felda chairman between 2011 and 2017 and has also previously served as Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar.

Even though BN are back in the government as part of the Perikatan Nasional government that came into power in March last year, many of the corruption trials remain, as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin promised not to interfere with court cases.

Najib was the first high-profile politician to be convicted of graft in July last year, followed by Umno treasurer and former federal Cabinet minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor in December.

Najib - who faces another four trials relating to 1MDB - was sentenced to 12 years' jail, while Tengku Adnan was sentenced to one year's jail. Both the sentences were suspended pending appeal.