Thursday, October 7, 1999

Land case: RM405m consent order

New Straits Times
by Sim Bak Heng

JOHOR BARU, Wed. - The High Court today recorded a consent order between the Johor State Government and four others, including Youth and Sports Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and Stamford Holdings Sdn Bhd requiring the defendants to pay a total of RM405 million in compensation to the company over a land deal.

Judge Zainun Ali recorded the order after lawyers for the company and the defendants agreed to settle the matter in the judge's Chambers here.

The defendants (there are eight of them) were not "required to pay a total of RM405 million in compensation". The order merely authorised the paying out of RM313,251,460.10 deposited by and/or on behalf of the Land Administrator in the High Court of Johor Baru in Land Reference No. 15-208-95 to Stamford Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Kelana Ventures Sdn Bhd agreed to pay Stamford Holdings Sdn Bhd an additional RM92,115,606.80 within 18 months of the consent order. The sum was not ordered to be paid as damages.

The judge, Zainun Ali, did not make any award of RM313 million as compensation.

A cheque for RM313,251,460.10 was not deposited with the court yesterday (Tuesday). The aggregate sum of RM313,251,460.10 had been deposited with the court sometime in 1995.

In view of the final paragraph of your report, it ought to have added that on June 10, 1998, the Federal Court granted leave to the defendants to appeal to the Federal Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal given on Dec 11, 1997 (not Dec 12, 1997) and further ordered that there be a stay of proceedings in the Johor Baru High Court civil suit.

Nowhere in the court records is it stated that the suit was at the instance of an alternate director of Stamford Holdings Sdn Bhd. Only the solicitors for Stamford Holdings Sdn Bhd would be privy to such privileged information.

Stamford Holdings, a plantation company, through its alternate director Gan Tee Kian, had filed the suit at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 4, 1995.

It had named the Johor Government, Muhyiddin the then Menteri Besar, businessmen Syed Mokhtar Albukhary and Datuk Yahya Talib, and the Johor Islamic Economic Development Corporation (PKEINJ) as defendants.

The company had claimed that Muhyiddin, Syed Mokhtar and Yahya had abused the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1960, to acquire 2,640ha of its land by using the PKEINJ as a vehicle for the acquisition.

It had also claimed that Syed Mokhtar and Yahya had conspired with Muhyiddin to press for the land acquisition.

In the suit, Stamford Holdings sought a declaration that the land acquisition exercise was not done in good faith and was therefore null and void.

It also wanted the court to declare that the PKEINJ was not a body of persons entitled to invoke provisions of the LAA to acquire its private landed property.

Zainun awarded RM313 million as compensation to Stamford Holdings and ordered Kelana Ventures Sdn Bhd, (a PKEINJ subsidiary) which acquired the land, to pay another RM92 million as additional payment.

State legal adviser Datuk Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim represented the Johor Government, Muhyiddin and the Johor Baru Land Administrator, while Roger Tan Kor Mee appeared for PKEINJ.

M. Pathmanathan appeared for Syed Mokhtar and Yahya while Datuk V.Sivaparanjothi represented Stamford Holdings.

Following today's order, the Johor Government has settled the full compensation to Stamford Holdings. A cheque for RM313,251,460.10 was deposited with the court.

Kelana Ventures, meanwhile, was given 18 months from today to pay its share of the damages to Stamford Holdings totalling RM92,115,606.80.

Zainun also ordered that the State Government and/or the Land Administrator alienate the land to Kelana Ventures within three months from today. The freehold land is in the mukim of Tebrau in Johor Baru.

Meanwhile, the court also ordered Stamford Holdings to hand over the land title to Kelana Ventures within two months from today, and pay retrenchment benefits to workers affected by the return of the land to Kelana Ventures.

The Johor Baru High Court had on April 15, 1995, struck out with costs Stamford Holding's suit, saying that the company had no reasonable cause of action against the five defendants.

The decision was, however, overruled by the Court of Appeal on Dec 12, 1997, which ordered all proceedings in the civil suit to proceed pending an appeal by the defendants.

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