KUALA LUMPUR: In a recent development, prominent businessman Tan Sri Halim Saad has commenced legal proceedings, alleging misconduct during the government’s takeover of United Engineers Malaysia Bhd (UEM) and Renong Bhd in 2001.
On August 2, Tan Sri Halim Saad, aged 69, initiated the lawsuit through the legal representation of Messrs Malik Imtiaz Sarwar. The lawsuit names key figures including former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 98, former finance II minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, 76, and the government as the primary defendants.
The heart of the matter lies in the assertion that during the UEM-Renong takeover between July and October 2001, the government executed a compulsory acquisition through Khazanah Nasional Bhd. This action purportedly led to the devaluation of Tan Sri Halim Saad’s Renong shares.
According to the lawsuit, at the time of the acquisition, Renong held a significant 37.92% stake in UEM, and Tan Sri Halim Saad was the foremost individual shareholder in Renong, signifying his commanding influence over the conglomerate.
However, the narrative takes a twist as Tan Sri Halim Saad contends that he had intended to orchestrate a general offer for UEM. His plans involved a possible takeover through Renong or a collaborative effort between Renong and himself. The goal was to privatize UEM as a Renong subsidiary, effectively granting him complete control over UEM.
Yet, the course of events altered as Tan Sri Halim Saad alleges that both Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop intervened. Allegedly, they dissuaded him from pursuing his intended actions. Instead, they advocated for the government’s acquisition of UEM shares via Khazanah or its designated party.
This change in direction mandated Tan Sri Halim Saad to relinquish his roles as shareholder and director in both UEM and Renong, along with their subsidiaries. Consequently, he claims he was coerced to surrender control of Renong and UEM to the government and subsequently, dispose of his Renong shares, resulting in substantial financial losses.
Tan Sri Halim Saad asserts that his Renong shares were personally owned and held no association with any political entity. He contends that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop were the driving forces representing the government in the compulsory acquisition and his subsequent loss of influence.
Aligned with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s authority as the prime minister and finance minister at that time, Tan Sri Halim Saad complied with their directives.
Adding to his claims, Tan Sri Halim Saad argues that the government’s actions violated Article 13 of the Federal Constitution by executing the acquisition without compensation, and further contravened Article 8 by neglecting equal protection under the law.
The lawsuit seeks a court order demanding the government to provide unspecified compensation, or in the alternative, to award general damages, interests, costs, and any other appropriate relief.
The case is scheduled for case management on September 13.