Top posts

Featured Posts

SAS scandal: Angry businessman Ambrose Lee slams Yee for implicating him

(Revisited) After more than a decade of silence, a businessman who was implicated as the hand behind the crash in the unit price of Saham Amanah Sabah (SAS) in 1997 has surfaced to publicly deny any involvement in the fiasco.

Businessman Ambrose Lee broke his silence following last week’s debacle in the state legislative assembly in which his name was, for the first time, directly linked to the debacle.

Lee was known to be the owner of now defunct Suniwang Holdings Sdn Bhd, which bought the MISC blue chip shares from Sabah government’s investment arm, Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd (WHSSB), in exchange for the North Borneo Timber (NBT) and Sugarbun shares back in 1997.

The allegations riled him enough to want to put on record that he had “nothing to do” with the SAS unit price plummeting from RM1 to less than 20 sen in 1997-1998 and causing some 55,000 investors to lose about RM400 million.

State Resources Development and Information Technology Minister Yee Moh Chai, when debating the motion for an opposition sponsored White Paper on the SAS, had said Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Yong Teck Lee, who was the then Sabah chief minister and also chairman of WHSSB, was responsible for the loss of RM114 million following the NBT and Sugarbun share swap deal.

“Both of these share counters namely NBT and Sugarbun have strong connection to Ambrose Lee who is of course no stranger to Yong,” Yee had said.

However, Lee refuted the Yee’s conclusions on what had transpired following the launching of the SAS unit fund after the Barisan Nasional took over the state government in 1994.

“I am not behind the fiasco of SAS as stated by Dr Yee Moh Chai,” Lee said, adding that Yee had taken advantage of the House privileges to mention his name without fear of the legal implications and persecution.

“So why can’t I make a statement when other people can make a statement against me?” he asked.

Documented evidence

Bringing along nearly an inch thick file of documents to support his argument at a press conference last week, Lee said the share swap dealing under his former company Suniwang Holdings Sdn Bhd was with Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd (WHSSB) and it had nothing to do with SAS.

The deal, he said, was for WHSSB to sell to Suniwang Holdings 32 million MISC shares for RM182,400,000 at RM5.70 per unit, which is more than the market price of RM5 at that time.

On the other hand, Suniwang Holdings paid the RM182.4 million by way of RM50 million cash (in January 1998) to WHSBB through Innosabah Securities, RM96 million from sales of three million NBT shares at RM32 per unit and another RM36.404 million from sales of 4.79 million Sugar Bun shares at sale and market price of RM7.60

(Lee said three million NBT shares was at a discounted price as the market price then was RM45.25.)

The NBT and Sugar Bun shares were transferred to WHSSB in 1997 and 1998, respectively.

However, the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 then ripped throw the region causing share markets to tumble and sparking fears of a worldwide economic meltdown.

The Bursa Malaysia then known as the KLSE, on which NBT and Sugar Bun shares were trading, was not spared.

“(Due to the losses) my company (Suniwang) then agreed to pay Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd the difference between the purchase and the market traded price amounting to RM96 million as he had issued a personal guarantee.

“I was the only local contractor who gave a personal guarantee that in the event of a loss I will pay for it.

“Subsequently, WHSSB through lawyers Shelley Yap Leong Tseu Chong Chia & Co, represented by Richard Barnes, took my then company to court for RM179,825,000,” he said.

Lee said that after several years, he wanted to settle the claim by making a proposal to Chief Minister Musa Aman in 2007.

His proposal was that the amount be paid through a third party Borneo Marble Corporation Sdn Bhd by transferring its properties worth RM350 million which he said was valued by independent valuers, to WHSSB.

“This was entertained by Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd (WHSSB) but rejected by the government through the Ministry of Finance Sabah,” he said.

Lee also referred to a newspaper clipping dated Aug 20, 2004 when the Saham Sabah Berhad (SSB), the SAS fund manager, had reportedly said that the share price plummet had nothing to do with WHSBB or anyone else for that matter.

The statement was made by SSB CEO at that time Hassan Otoi.

In the report, Hassan said that if anyone was to be blamed for the estimated RM400 million losses that the 55,000 investors incurred, it should be the share market itself.

Nonetheless, Lee said based on records of all SAS transactions made available to the public, the SAS did not suffer substantial losses in NBT as they had sold the NBT shares before the collapse, while the records also showed that SAS made substantial gains in Sugar Bun shares.

“Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd (WHSBB) and SAS are two different entities.

“SAS is a trust fund managed by a Board whilst Warisan Harta Sabah Sdn Bhd (WHSBB) is owned by the Finance Ministry, which is the State Government of Sabah,” he said.

Not a bankrupt

Lee also questioned that the status of North Borneo Timber (NBT).

“If all this while politicians have been saying that the NBT is worthless, then why was the NBT Forest Management Unit (FMU2) concession sold and bought by another party and a senior lawyer?” he asked.

He said a check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) showed that a senior lawyer was holding a proportionate amount of shares in the new company, also known as the NBT Corporation.

“Who is telling the truth? Check for yourself … at least I’m brave enough to take the bull by its horns,” he said.

When asked about his financial status as there were talks that Lee was a bankrupt following the Suniwang court case, he retorted that he would not be able to travel out of the country if he is a bankrupt.

Nonetheless, he admitted that he is under the Receiving Order (which is the second last step before being declared a bankrupt).

“Go and check. If I am a bankrupt can I travel?” he asked.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog