KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian government is seeking the repayment of a loan of more than RM250 million (S$83 million) to private company National Feedlot Corp (NFC), Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said yesterday.
His statement recalled a scandal in 2011, when Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) was in power, that led to the stepping down of a woman minister whose family controlled a cattle-rearing project.
NFC got the loan in 2008, with the funds to be used to grow the local beef market by rearing cattle so as to cut import bills. The company is controlled by the family of former Umno minister Shahrizat Jalil.
The matter became known as the cows-and-condos scandal, when it was reported that the funds were allegedly used to buy condominium units in Singapore and Malaysia, and to open fine-dining restaurants in Singapore.
Mr Lim said the sum owed by NFC is just over RM253 million, including interest and late interest charges as of April 30.
"The Ministry of Finance has decided to seek full repayment of the loan to NFC and this matter was referred to the Attorney-General's Chambers on Aug 29, 2018 for further action," Mr Lim said, as quoted by The Star newspaper.
"The Attorney-General's Chambers is looking into the matter and will announce the latest development when available," he added.
The move is the latest by the year-old Pakatan Harapan government to seek redress over past scandals involving the BN government.
Mr Lim said a search conducted with the Registrar of Companies on May 17 showed Datuk Seri Shahrizat's husband, Datuk Mohamad Salleh Ismail, was listed as sole director of NFC.
This is different from information gleaned from a due diligence report by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Mr Lim added, as reported by The Star.
The PwC report showed that Mr Mohamad Salleh and his children - Izran Salleh, Izmir Salleh and Izzana Salleh - as well as representatives from the federal and state governments were directors on the NFC board between Dec 6, 2007 and Dec 31, 2011.
The scandal broke out in 2011 after the Auditor-General's annual report highlighted that NFC was poorly managed and could meet only 41.1 per cent of its target for 2010, and called the firm "a mess".
Ms Shahrizat in March 2012 stepped down as Women, Family and Community Development Minister, but retained her post as Umno Women wing's chief.
Ms Shahrizat, now 65, was not picked by BN to run as a candidate in the 2014 and 2018 elections, and retired from politics after BN lost power in May last year.
Mr Mohamad Salleh said in a statement reported by Malay Mail online news that there is a new buyer for NFC that will fully repay all outstanding loans, and the government has been informed of this.