Lawyer questions legality of FGV striking out application against counterclaim

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 20): The lawyer for five former FGV Holdings Bhd non-executive directors has questioned the legality of the company's application to strike out her clients' counterclaim involving RM514 million.

Fahda Nur Ahmad Kamar claims FGV did not get leave from the High Court to file the striking out application or any other documents as 13 other defendants in the main suit did not file a certificate of appearance.

"They failed to enter appearance within the time limited for appearance (by the court) and hence the filing of any further documents requires leave of the court," Hahda Nur told theedgemarkets.com.

The counterclaim was filed after FGV filed the main suit against the five individuals and nine others for the same amount of RM514 million, for failing to discharge their respective fiduciary duties, duties of fidelity and duties to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence with regards to FGV's purchase of Asian Plantation Ltd (APL) in 2014.

The five are Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, Tan Sri Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah, Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob, Datuk Nozirah Bahari and Datuk Fazlur Rahman Ebrahim. They are the 10th to 14th defendants in the main suit.

The matter came up for case management today between Fahda and FGV lawyer Ang Hean Leng before High Court deputy registrar Farah Shuhada Ramli, who fixed March 28 for the case to be brought before Justice Datuk Azimah Omar.

It was reported last week that FGV had filed an application to strike out the counterclaim.

Ang told theedgemarkets.com that the reasons cited by his client in seeking to strike out the counterclaim included that there was no reasonable cause of action and that filing the counterclaim was an abuse of the court process.

Besides naming FGV, the five had also named 10 individuals — including the company's present chairman as well as non-independent directors and non-executive directors — as defendants in the counterclaim.

The 10 individuals are Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid, Mohd Hassan Ahmad, Datuk Dr Othman Omar, Dr Mohamed Nazeeb P. Alithambi, Datuk Dr Salmiah Ahmad, Datin Hoi Lai Peng, Datuk Yusli Mohamed Yusoff, Dr Nesadurai Kalanithi, Datuk Mohd Anwar Yahya and Datuk Mohamed Suffian Awang.

In their defence and counterclaim, the five alleged that the present FGV board had initiated the civil suit so as to cover up their weaknesses in managing the company that led to a drop in FGV's share price and had alluded the losses were due to the APL purchase.

They further claimed that the present board's move was to discredit the previous board, which they said had taken all efforts to expand the company and safeguard its potential future revenue.

They also alleged that the present FGV board had initiated the suit against them to cast the impression that they were corrupted.

On Nov 23, 2018, FGV filed the main suit against its former president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah, former Felda chairperson, Tan Sri Isa Samad, and 11 others including the five over the APL purchase.