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PETALING JAYA: Why was a staggering RM4 million invested by the Malaysian Paralympics Council (MPC) in a company helmed by its president and his sons?
This is the poser raised by several council members upon learning of the investment recently.
A probe by The Malay Mail revealed that in 2008, MPC had invested RM4 million in an events management company, Paralimpik Ventures Sdn Bhd.
Our investigations showed a cheque for RM2 million was issued on April 4, 2008, and another RM2 million was transferred about two weeks later, on April 17, 2008.
The cheque and telegraphic transfer were allegedly signed off by MPC president Datuk Zainal Abu Zarin and its then treasurer, Liew Yoon Loy.
It is understood the money was derived from donations and fund-raising activities carried out by the MPC over the years. Sources claimed nothing on the hefty investment had been heard of since.
A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia revealed Zainal and his sons, Idi Irwan and Ilia Ikhwan, were listed as the directors of Paralimpik Ventures.
One person not amused by this episode was MPC council member Prof M. Chandra Sekaran, who said the issue had raised more questions than answers.
"Who allowed the investment? Was it documented? How much have we made? Most importantly, who will be held responsible if the investment goes wrong?" he asked.
Chandra claimed he was approached by Zainal to invest some money in the company in 2008. Chandra was the treasurer for the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) then.
"We were told it was a new scheme by Bank Negara Malaysia that promises to double the investment within a year but we at the MAB did not agree to it.
"Millions have been channelled out of MPC but it has not been documented. Such an investment requires the approval of two-thirds of the council, not just a handful of people."
He said there was no letter of undertaking by Bank Negara on the investment. "The manner the investment was done is unethical and we have been kept out of the loop for far too long.
"Now, where is the money?"
Chandra said he was eager to raise this issue at the much-awaited annual general meeting (AGM), which could be held soon.
It was learnt the MPC had not conducted its AGM since 2005 and was only registered with the Sports Commissioner’s office in May 2008.
MPC executive board member Lee Sheng Chow, a blind national para athlete, said the revelation caught him by surprise. "This is news to me. We had had many meetings in the past, yet this was never brought up," Lee, who is also founder and president of the Malaysian Disabled Persons Sports Association, said.
"This has to be clarified. Such dealings must be done in a transparent manner."
Zainal, however, maintained the money was secure and kept aside for the possible construction of MPC’s new headquarters.
Meanwhile, Sports Commissioner Datuk Yassin Salleh said MPC would be hauled up to explain the matter.
"We were not privy to such information before but once this is reported to us or even published in the newspapers, we will surely investigate.
"I don’t want to jump the gun but we need to know why such a thing was done in the first place and who had consented to the deal."
This latest controversy has been deemed a "double whammy" for the MPC, which was in the limelight earlier this month after several national para athletes cried foul when their monetary rewards were significantly "slashed".
On June 16, The Paper That Cares front-paged a report on Malaysia's paralympic athletes, whom despite finishing sixth out of 51 countries in last year's Asian Para Games in Guangzhou, China, only received 30 per cent of what able-bodied athletes got in cash incentives.
Special athletes used to earn RM80,000 for a gold medal, RM40,000 for silver and RM20,000 for bronze at the regional games but when the incentives were presented to them in April, the winners only received RM24,000 for gold, RM12,000 silver and RM6,000 bronze.
The National Sports Council (NSC) clarified, however, that the para athletes would be better taken care of under an incentive scheme introduced this year.
'Cash in good hands'
MALAYSIAN Paralympics Council (MPC) president Datuk Zainal Abu Zarin admitted to having channelled RM4 million to Paralimpik Ventures Sdn Bhd in 2008.
However, he was quick to add it was for a good cause.
"We were promised a plot of land by the government a couple of years ago but we were informed last year the land is actually a forest reserve and we would be given another suitable location.
"We invested the money as we needed the cash to grow. We just can’t dump the money in fixed deposit as the interest rates are ridiculously low."
Zainal admitted there was some form of “deal with regards to the RM4 million but declined to elaborate. He also did not mention the government agency that had promised the land.
"Our members are well aware of this project. This is an internal matter which we plan to make public once we get the approval (on the land) from the government. The money is there, rest assured. In fact, it has grown."
He did not specify the amount of money projected from the investment, but acknowledged it was obtained through donations and other MPC activities in the past.
"Let this not be a situation where a good deed will be seen as bad. I assure you the money is there and has grown. This will be a starting point for our building committee. Four million ringgit is not enough to build a headquarters in Kuala Lumpur."
When told several MPC members claimed they were unaware of the matter, Zainal said: "We have just obtained the approval from the Sports Commissioner’s office after rectifying our constitution two months ago and will be holding our annual general meeting soon. We will discuss this matter."
Zainal said MPC had been struggling to find its "own place". It is renting an office block in Brickfields now.
"We want our new place to be a symbol of Malaysian para athletics," he said.