KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — The High Court has today ordered the wife of Jakel Group’s Datuk Mohamad Nizam Jakel Mohamad Jakel to pay a total sum of RM1.5 million in exemplary damages to three shareholders, after they were forced to enter into several contractual agreements.
Judicial commissioner Ong Chee Kwan said Norhana Sharkan — who is admittedly the agent of Nizam and disclosed principal — had exerted undue pressure and coerced the transfer of respective shares in their companies to her, which was accomplished through Nizam’s “odious” conduct by way of threats.
Accordingly, the three shareholders (plaintiffs) of the three aforementioned companies — Bestinet Sdn Bhd, Tass Tech Sdn Bhd and Synerflux Sdn Bhd — are JR Joint Resources Holdings Sdn Bhd, Mohd Zaki Jaafar and SH Yahya Sh Mohamed respectively.
While the plaintiffs are separate entities, all of them are associated with Datuk Sri Aminul Islam Abdul Nor who is also known as Amin.
According to the grounds of judgment, Amin “is the prime mover of the various platforms (collectively referred to as ‘the scheme’) and is the controlling mind behind these entities.”
In handing down his verdict, Ong said he was in agreement that this was indeed a proper case where exemplary damages ought to be imposed as Nizam’s main objective was to extract money to be derived by the plaintiffs from their Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS) contracts awarded by the Malaysian government.
“He contributed nothing to the scheme but wanted the benefits from efforts put in by the plaintiffs.
“In carrying out his objective, Nizam blatantly blackmailed the companies into giving him exorbitant amounts and substantial control over the companies.
“His actions had inflicted fear, distress and hopelessness upon Aminul Islam Abdul Nor (also known as Amin) and the plaintiffs. Such actions also would have a crippling effect on the ability of meritorious companies dealing with the government of Malaysia.
“If exemplary damages is not awarded, Nizam would come out of this episode no worse off as he never had the shares of the companies to begin with,” Ong said in his 115-page judgment dated August 26.
In comparing both the testimonies of Amin and Nizam, Ong said he was inclined to accept the former in which Nizam had stated that if Amin worked with him, he would use his influence with the “higher ups” in the government to get the concession approved for the FWCMS scheme or risk losing the award if Amin refused to accede to Nizam’s demands.
“Notwithstanding that Nizam had purported to characterise his services to be that of ‘consultant, liaison and adviser’, in truth, he was actually selling his close connection and or association with the government authorities, particularly, the then deputy Prime Minister who was also the Home Minister at the material times, whether perceived or actual,” he said.
At the material time, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was deputy prime minister-cum-home minister.
In his ruling, Ong also ordered the shares to be transferred back to the companies as soon as possible and also declared the agreements void.
“To my mind, it is plain that Nizam has indeed been enriched in this case and the enrichment was at the plaintiffs’ expense.
“By all accounts, the plaintiffs were progressing well on their own merits with their negotiations with the Malaysian government on the scheme and were already implementing some of the modules under the FWCMS.
“Nizam, on the other hand, by use of unlawful and illegitimate means had pressured the plaintiffs to transfer their respective shares in the companies to Nizam and or the defendant.
“Nizam offered no consideration for the shares except to undertake not to exercise his influence and close connection with the ‘higher ups’ to prevent the companies from securing the Concession Agreements.
“In such a circumstance, it will clearly be unjust to permit Nizam or the defendant to retain the shares,” he said.
The court also ordered Norhana to pay RM360,000 in costs to the plaintiffs.
The companies were focused on developing and implementing proprietary software solutions or platforms designed to assist the government through the Home Ministry in the area of recruitment of migrant foreign workers by Malaysian employers, and to screen passengers entering or exiting the country.
By way of several agreements, Norhana had received 49 per cent of the share capital of Bestinet, and 70 per cent in both Tass Tech and Synerflux through the impugned contractual agreement.
In their suit, the plaintiffs claim that the defendant had by illegitimate means exerted undue pressure and had coerced the transfer of their respective shares in the companies that developed the software, to Norhana.
This was accomplished by threatening to interfere with the plaintiffs’ negotiations and contracts with the government using the defendant’s close connection and influence with “powerful persons” within the government.
The plaintiffs, who filed their suits in late 2018, said the agreements signed with the defendant came about due to economic duress, coercion, illegality, failure of consideration, breach of condition and unjust enrichment.
They also sought declarations that the agreements are legally bad and must be struck down and the shares must be returned, all of which were allowed by the court.