Zakaria hires Umno lawyer to challenge FGV's internal investigation

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KUALA LUMPUR (June 19): Suspended group president and chief executive officer of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) Datuk Zakaria Arshad said he has engaged Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to challenge the internal investigation launched into his actions at the plantation giant.

"With regards to the domestic inquiry which was initiated by Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, I am confident I shall be proven innocent and henceforth, I have engaged Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to be my legal counsel to attend to the matter," Zakaria said in a statement today.

He was referring to FGV's internal audit investigation on him and three other senior management officers in relation to unapproved extension of credit by FGV's subsidiary Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd to its long-time customer Safitex Trading LLC, which resulted in its late payment ballooning to US$11.7 million (RM49.99 million).

Meanwhile, Zakaria said he will abide by recommendations from Datuk Seri Idris Jala's report which was announced by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) earlier today.

The report, according to the PMO's statement, has found "sufficient facts and reasonable grounds warranting the FGV board to initiate disciplinary proceedings” against the four in relation to the alleged breach of procedures in Delima Oil.

"As such, FGV should continue with its ongoing disciplinary proceedings," said the PMO, adding that no one is guilty of any wrongdoing at this juncture, unless proven by impending domestic inquiries.

Zakaria also congratulated Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob's appointment as acting chairman in FGV, replacing Mohd Isa who will assume the role of acting chairman at the Land Public Transport Commission. Both boardroom changes are effective today.

The decision by the government to move Mohd Isa away from FGV was made to uphold the integrity, spirit of impartiality of the ongoing inquiry, while ensuring proper corporate governance of FGV and Delima Oil, the PMO said.

FGV's internal investigation on the procedural irregularities between Delima Oil and Safitex has resulted in show-cause letters issued by FGV's board of directors on Zakaria and the group chief financial officer Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha. The duo have until 4.30pm tomorrow to respond with a written reply.

Shares of FGV closed 8 sen or 4.54% higher at RM1.84 today, with 34.72 million shares traded, giving it a market capitalisation of RM6.71 billion.