Zahid and Najib were involved, says declassified report

PETALING JAYA: Despite his denials two weeks ago, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was involved in the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) project at least since 2010, a just declassified report has revealed.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had been involved even earlier, since 2008, according to the report by the Special Investigation Committee on Public Governance, Procurement and Finance.

Paper trail: The letter from Ahmad Ramli to Ahmad Zahid, on which the then Defence Minister gave the go-ahead with his signature.Paper trail: The letter from Ahmad Ramli to Ahmad Zahid, on which the then Defence Minister gave the go-ahead with his signature.

The report also attached a letter from former navy chief and then Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) managing director Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor to Ahmad Zahid on July 8, 2010.

In the letter, Ahmad Ramli asked Ahmad Zahid, then the defence minister, for a letter of intent (LOI) on the project.

Ahmad Ramli, who is now facing three criminal breach of trust charges, said in the letter that BNS had made plans to begin construction for the LCS project – which would take two years – and needed a mandate from the government to ensure the original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) confidence to commit to the project.

On the top right corner of the letter, Ahmad Zahid had written: “SUB perolehan, sila laksanakan” (Under-secretary of procurement division, please execute), along with his signature on the letter.

On Aug 7, Ahmad Zahid had denied any involvement, saying he should not be blamed for the LCS fiasco as the contract was awarded in 2014, when he was no longer defence minister, a post he held from 2009 to 2013.

He said anyone involved in the issue should provide an explanation to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“Those who failed in the LCS procurement must be held responsible,” he said.

In the July 8, 2010, letter, Ahmad Ramli said the BNS required an LOI from the government consenting to OEM for the LCS project.

“Any support and assistance from Datuk Seri on this matter is much appreciated,” the letter read.

Ahmad Zahid then gave the green light with his “sila laksanakan” endorsement on July 9, the report said.

It also said BNS had been trying to acquire an LOI from Putrajaya since 2008 after discussions with then defence minister Najib, who asked the Finance Ministry to issue the LOI on Jan 15, 2008.

Although it is unclear why the LOI request was not approved, the report said BNS attempted to engage Najib until June 2009, although the Pekan MP had become Finance Minister by then.

Najib took over as prime minister on April 3, 2009.

The investigation into the fiasco was led by former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.

The LCS controversy has gained momentum over the past few days after the PAC revealed that none of the ships had been completed, although five should have been delivered by August 2022.

It was reported that RM1.4bil worth of government funds intended for the multibillion-ringgit LCS project signed in 2014 was diverted for other purposes.

These were among the findings contained in the PAC’s 250-page report that was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on Aug 4.

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