Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ahmad Zahid defamation suit against Rafizi struck off by High Court

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi withdrew his defamation suit against opposition lawmaker Rafizi Ramli (pic) after the latter made an open declaration in court that he was satisfied with Zahid's (pic) explanation that he played no role in Boustead Holdings Berhad's transactions to acquire shares in Astacanggih Sdn Bhd and development land parcels from Awan Megah Sdn Bhd.

Rafizi, in the presence of Ahmad Zahid in court today, also stated that he was therefore withdrawing the wrongful statements on the issue of the home minister's involvement, which he had made in his blog on December 29.

Astacanggih is owned by controversial carpet dealer Deepak Jaikishan while Awan Megah is linked to Umno politician Datuk Raja Ropiah Abdullah.

Previously, Astacanggih had sued Awan Megah for breach of contract, with Deepak claiming his company had in May 2007 entered into an agreement with Awan Megah to acquire government land that was awarded to them.

Awan Megah was awarded the land and a cash consideration in exchange for developing a defence education centre called Pusat Pengajian Pertahanan Nasional (Puspahanas) in Putrajaya.

The project is currently stalled.

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The suit by Astacanggih against Awan Megah was later withdrawn.

Today, after Rafizi made his statement in court, High Court judge Lee Heng Cheong struck out the RM10 million suit by Ahmad Zahid and made no order as to costs.

In his blog article, Rafizi had alleged that Boustead Holdings' acquisition of an 80% stake in Astacanggih Sdn Bhd was an attempt to silence Deepak who had exposed an alleged land scam involving Raja Ropiah and Awan Megah.

The PKR strategy director also accused Ahmad Zahid of abusing his power by spending public money through government investment Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT), which owns Boustead, to acquire the loss-making property development company.

“This is worse than a bailout ... this is outright bribery to practically pay off and silence (Deepak),” Rafizi had told a press conference on December 29 last year.

But in court today, Rafizi stated that he was satisfied that Ahmad Zahid did not abuse his power in relation to Boustead's decision to enter into the deal.

Outside court, the Pandan MP clarified, however, his statement in court was not an apology, and was only with regard to the fact that Ahmad Zahid did not instruct Boustead to enter into the deal.

"While I am satisfied that he did not instruct Boustead Holdings to enter into the transaction, that does not prejudice me from seeking for accountability for the award of the contract to Awan Megah, which is owned by Raja Ropiah.

"There has to be accountability for that award to an incompetent crony-owned company and I will pursue this. Now that the home minister has clarified that he did not instruct Boustead, and I am satisfied with the explanation, somebody else did instruct, and the project is stalled until today," he said, referring to the Puspahanas project.

In the suit filed earlier this year, Ahmad Zahid had claimed that Rafizi had falsely and maliciously written and published the article in his blog rafiziramli.com over the purchase of Deepak's firm.

In his statement of claim, Ahmad Zahid had said Rafizi had posted the article with the intention of making the public and Barisan Nasional (BN) lose confidence in him, particularly as the 13th general election was around the corner.

He had also claimed that the article meant that he misused public funds, particularly the contributions of army personnel in LTAT.

Lawyers Datuk Sassedharan Menon, B. Muralitharan and V. Premshangar represented the home minister while Razlan Hadri appeared for Rafizi. - August 21, 2013.

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