The former head of troubled steel giant Perwaja was charged yesterday with fraud after an eight-year investigation by anti-corruption authorities into Malaysia's biggest financial scandal.
Prosecutors charged Eric Chia with criminal breach of trust for allegedly embezzling 76.4 million ringgit (US$20.1 million) from the Perwaja Rolling Mill and Development steel company in 1994, when he was then managing director.
Chia, 71, who was detained on Monday, pleaded not guilty to the charge and vowed to reporters: "I will fight until the end. I leave it to God to judge."
Lawyers said Chia faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Judge Akhtar Tahir set the trial for August and granted Chia bail of 2 million ringgit. His passport was also surrendered to the court.
The charge followed an investigation that began in 1996 into millions of dollars in losses suffered by the steel giant.
Perwaja, which processes iron ore, was the cornerstone of Malaysia's industrialization drive begun by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in the early 1980s.
But in 1996, parliament was told that Perwaja was insolvent with losses totalling 2.9 billion ringgit, and the government ordered a probe into the company's finances that would eventually involve 50 witnesses.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who took over from Mahathir last October and has made an anti-corruption drive the center-piece of his premiership, said: "If investigations show that corruption had taken place, the law will have to take its course."
Asked if he was caught off-guard by the arrest, Chia said, "It was a surprise when they stopped me on the road when I was buying food. They should have arrested me when I was at home," he said.
Chia said that he was prepared to face the court to clear his name.
"I have been waiting for this all this while. I am prepared to go through it," he said.
Chia said he had been mandated by Mahathir to revitalize the company when it ran into financial problems in 1998.
"I was asked to do a national service. Perwaja was at that time already bankrupt," he said.
Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party, said that the Perwaja issue was undoubtedly the biggest financial scandal in Malaysia and called for a royal commission to investigate the firm's losses.
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
RALLYING A DEFENSE: Former envoys wrote an op-ed piece defending Anna Lindstedt, who was removed for attempting to free Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai in China Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday for allegedly overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. Anna Lindstedt is accused of brokering an unauthorized meeting during her time as ambassador to free publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海). Lindstedt — a veteran envoy who had previously represented Sweden in both Vietnam and Mexico, and acted as Sweden’s chief negotiator at the 2015 climate summit in Paris — has denied the charges. Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
From boiled catfish soup to spicy fried frog, an eight-year-old in pyjamas and a chef’s hat is delighting Myanmar with her culinary prowess in a nation still being told to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moe Myint May Thu’s mother posted a video online at the end of April showing off her daughter’s skills as the youngster threw together some spicy fried prawns. With her wide, gap-toothed grin, the video has bounced across social media and brought stardom to the child along with an online moniker: “Little Chef.” She now sells dishes to order and is counting the dividends. “I just