Whilst the learned justices preside over the court cases involving Sabah Forest Industries Sdn Bhd (SFI) and related parties – Injunction hearing and judicial review on Oct 2019 and January 2020 respectively, it appears that the Sabah state government has put in motion a conniving plan that meddles in the affairs of SFI to increase its stake in the company.
This matter came to light after Sabah’s Agriculture Minister, Datuk Junz Wong revealed that “SFI would be operated by a Hong Kong-based public listed company, whilst the State Government stake would be increased from two to 30 per cent,” he was quoted in Borneo Post recently.
Based on research, the Hong Kong company could be Lee & Man Paper, which a few years ago sparked controversy in causing environmental damage to waterways form a business venture in Southern Vietnam. The fears were related to threats to the local ecosystem and environment due high chemical content in their mill and production activities.
Since, SFI is central to the deal, the Sabah Government could not have executed this plan alone, unless the receiver manager of SFI, Grant Thornton Consulting, was involved in putting together the plan.
This means that the state government, despite the on-going court cases, had been in collusion with the HK company and Grant Thornton to not only take-control of SFI but also put in motion a plan that could bypass or influence the decision of the Courts.
It is quite disturbing to note that the Sabah Government has resorted to underhand tactics to increase its interest in SFI. Why is SFI so important to Shafie?
To make a point, Shafie Apdal as the state’s finance minister even approved an RM98 million unsecured loan by Sabah Development Bank (SDB) for SFI.
This goes against banking prudence and practices because SFI had an outstanding loan that was defaulted and never repaid (hence, the appointment of Grant Thornton Consulting as its SFI’s receiver manager).
How can then Shafie Apdal or SDB approve a second loan (unsecured) under such circumstances?
Many questions arise because of such poor and controversial decisions:
- Why is Shafie Apdal so interested in SFI when the monies could be channelled into more deserving socio-economic projects to benefit a bigger population in Sabah?
- Why is Shafie Apdal resorting to unorthodox tactics to gain control over SFI? Where does he plan to get the money from?
- On what criteria did the SDB or Shafie Apdal approve the RM98 million loan? Where is due diligence?
- Does the State government practise financial prudence? As its finance minister, does Shafie Apdal know what he is doing or is he blinded by an agenda?
The actions, which lacked governance and transparency, appeared to have breached the administrative system, given the circumstances of the case. All parties must be held accountable for their actions and investigated for malfeasance.