Ex-Head of Malaysian Govt Land Agency Convicted of Corruption

Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
Ex-Head of Malaysian Govt Land Agency Convicted of Corruption Former Felda Chairman Isa Samad arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex ahead of the verdict in a corruption case against him, Feb. 3, 2021.

A Malaysian court found the ex-chairman of a key state-owned land development agency guilty of corruption and sentenced him Wednesday to six years in prison, saying he had abused his power and public trust.

Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, a former politician, was convicted of accepting 3 million ringgit (U.S. $740,500) in bribes to approve the purchase of a hotel in 2014 when he headed the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), an agency set up to eradicate poverty among rural Malay farmers.

The court fined him more than five times the amount of bribes he was convicted of accepting, Kuala Lumpur High Court Justice Nazlan Ghazali said while delivering the verdict.

“The court took notice of the background of the accused, his administration record as well as his involvement in politics where the accused served as chief minister for two decades and also as a cabinet minister. An offense related to corruption is serious, it threatens the nation’s economy and is a cancer that affects the country’s democratic system,” Nazlan said.

“Therefore, the court orders a six-year prison sentence for each offense faced by the accused and orders for the sentences to run concurrently.”

He also penalized Isa with a fine of 15.45 million ringgit ($3.8 million).

The court granted a stay of execution on the sentence pending the conclusion of an appeal, and allowed Isa to be released on a bond of 1.5 million ringgit (U.S. $370,000) bond. He is required to report to a police station on the first day of every month until the end of the appeal process.

Najib appointee to Felda

Isa was charged with approving the purchase of the Merdeka Palace & Suites Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak, without the approval from the Felda board of directors on Apr. 29, 2014. He was also accused of receiving nine bribes amounting to slightly more than 3 million ringgit for helping approve the hotel’s purchase for 160 million ringgit (U.S. $39.5 million).

Lead prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz had called for the maximum of 12 years in prison for each of the nine counts Isa was charged with.

Defense counsel Salehuddin Saidin requested that the judge show leniency because of Isa’s age and health. The defense counsel also said that because this was Isa’s first offense and because he had contributed to the nation, the judge should show some mercy.

Isa, 71, is a former Federal Territories Minister and Chief Minister of Negeri Sembilan. He was also a senior member of the United Malays National Organization party, which once suspended him for six years after an internal audit found him guilty of buying votes.

The former politician was made chairman of Felda in 2010 by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Notably, the judge who heard Isa’s case was the one who convicted Najib last year on charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust, and money-laundering tied to the looting of billions of dollars from state fund 1MDB. In July, Najib was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined 210 million ringgit (U.S. $52 million).

Felda was set up in 1956 under a poverty elimination program. It was the brainchild of Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib’s late father and Malaysia’s second prime minister.

The agency was set up to distribute farm land to relocated ethnic Malays so they could cultivate cash crops. Felda resettled 112,635 families between 1957 and 1990, according to the website of FGV Holdings Berhad, the agency’s commercial arm.


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