Grant Thornton says will defend its managing partner against CBT charges in Sabah Forest Industries case

Grant Thornton Malaysia country managing partner Datuk Narendra Jasani

Grant Thornton Malaysia country managing partner Datuk Narendra Jasani

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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 14): Grant Thornton Malaysia has stepped up to defend its country managing partner Datuk NK Jasani, who has been charged with eight counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) in the Sessions Court on Wednesday.

In a statement, Grant Thornton said it disagrees with the charges and will be vigorously defending Jasani with facts and evidence.

“The case is related to Sabah Forest Industries Sdn Bhd (SFI) which is presently under receivership. Datuk NK Jasani was appointed as the Receiver and Manager by virtue of the Liquidator License issued in his name, the work of which is undertaken by the consulting arm of Grant Thornton Malaysia,” the audit firm said in the statement.

It added that his appointment was made in 2017 by Maybank Trustees Bhd representing HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Bahrain, ICICI UK Bank Plc and Cooperatieve Rabobank UA, Hong Kong.

Grant Thornton in a statement addressed to its clients further assured that all services and operations of Grant Thornton Malaysia will not be affected.

Earlier on Sept 14, Jasani was charged before two separate Sessions Court judges with CBT amounting to RM2.38 million.

He was alleged to have committed the crime in his capacity as a manager and receiver of SFI over deposits belonging to Pelangi Prestasi Sdn Bhd.

Pelangi Prestasi is a firm owned by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary vying to take over SFI.

Jasani pleaded not guilty to all charges and claimed trial.

All charges are punishable under Section 409 of the Penal Code. If found guilty, he faces between two and 20 years in prison, whipping and a fine.

A total of five charges were read before Sessions Court judge Bakri Abd Majid — two charges for offences committed in July and September 2020, and three charges for offences committed in February, March and May 2020.

Deputy public prosecutor Zulaaikha Mohd Apandi did not offer bail, as this is a non-bailable offence, but left it to the court's discretion. She suggested RM100,000 for the first two charges, and another RM100,000 for the other three charges.

AG Kalidas, who represented Jasani, asked for lower bail, as his client is a 72-year-old with health issues.

He said that his client is also not a flight risk, and pointed out that Jasani was a managing director of an international audit and consultancy firm.

Bakri set total bail of RM60,000 with one surety, and for Jasani's passport to be surrendered to the court.

Jasani was then charged before Sessions Court judge Datin Sabariah Othman with three similar offences allegedly committed in November and December 2019, and January 2020.

Sabariah set bail of RM50,000 with one surety, and for Jasani's passport to be surrendered to the court.

Daniel Annamalai held a watching brief for Pelangi Prestasi during the proceedings on Wednesday.

All the charges are set for mention on Oct 14.

Kamarul Azhar Mohamad Azmi