Malaysia

Questions raised over Singapore supermarket owned by Shahrizat’s family

By Shannon Teoh
February 28, 2012

PETALING JAYA, Feb 28 — PKR revealed today Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family is opening a new supermarket in Singapore, throwing up a host of questions over links to the RM250 million government loan meant for the National Feedlot Centre (NFC).

The party posed questions today about how the family, which owns the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) tasked with running the cattle-farming scheme, obtained bank loans to open a supermarket at a new luxury shopping mall on the island.

The party distributed documents showing Shahrizat’s (picture) husband and NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh and their two children owned Farmhouse Supermarkets, which has taken loans from Maybank and United Overseas Bank.

PKR had made an earlier disclosure that NFCorp, the company owned by minister Shahrizat’s family, had a RM180 million fixed deposit with Maybank in 2009.

“We believe the loans were approved with the same method to pay for their two luxury condominiums in Marina Bay Suites worth RM34 million,” PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said.

He had earlier this month claimed the RM250 million federal loan for the NFC project given to NFCorp was used to leverage financing for the two units.

“This exposes public funds to risk of losses from the supermarket business,” Rafizi told a press conference.

NFCorp has insisted it has the right to use its RM250 million soft loan from the government as it saw fit, even to invest in property, as long as it repays the interest.

But DAP publicity chief Tony Pua, who sits on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said the Finance Ministry had told the panel last November there was no provision allowing NFCorp to use its federal loan to purchase property.

Rafizi also told reporters today the supermarket has signed a tenancy agreement to take up 28 units and be the anchor tenant in Star Vista, a new mall that will begin operations in the third quarter of this year.

He said that based on the average rental for commercial space in Singapore, the estimated 3,000-sq metre supermarket will cost RM2.2 million a month in rental.

“Including other expenditure, the supermarket will require operating expenditure of RM30 to RM40 million a year,” he said.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat has been repeatedly linked to NFCorp as the project was awarded by the Cabinet to her family.

The RM250 million publicly-funded cattle-raising scheme was coined a “mess” after it made it into the pages of the Attorney-General’s 2010 Report for failing to meet production targets.

The term was repeatedly used to describe NFCorp after PKR launched a series of exposés to show that the project’s funds had been allegedly abused.

The company’s assets were frozen after investigations were launched by the police and the national anti-graft body following the revelations.

Shahrizat took three weeks’ leave from ministerial duties last month to allow the authorities to complete their probe.

She was questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on her first day back at work.

Rafizi had earlier admitted PKR lacked documented proof to show NFCorp had fixed deposit accounts with UOB.

But he dared Shahrizat to “detail the income of the family by which they collect such assets”, saying the combined household income must be RM500,000 a month to service all the loans.

He also showed reporters an advertisement put out by Farmhouse Supermarkets to recruit purchasing managers on January 17, three days after Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced that NFCorp’s assets had been frozen.

“So as NFCorp says, it’s business as usual. The prime minister is very cheeky to play with words when he said NFCorp’s assets were frozen.

“By right the freeze should follow the tentacles all the way because most of the money is already outside NFCorp,” Rafizi said, repeating his call for all NFCorp directors to have their personal assets frozen.