Sime sues ex-CEO Zubir & 4 others

This is written by my colleagues Irdiani Mohd Salleh, Zaidi Isham Ismail and Azlan Abu Bakar

KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Bhd former group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid and two senior executives were slapped with another civil suit by the conglomerate, a day after it filed the first suit. 

This time, it was in relation to the Bakun dam project. 

The company and its three subsidiaries Sime Engineering Sdn Bhd, Sime Darby Holdings Bhd and Sime Darby Energy Sdn Bhd filed the suit at the High Court registry here today through Messrs Zaid Ibrahim & Co.

Besides Ahmad Zubir, former Sime Darby Energy Sdn Bhd vice president Datuk Mohd Shukri Baharom and chief financial officer Abdul Rahim Ismail were named as defendants in the suit. The plaintiffs are seeking at least RM92.2 million from the defendants.

Among the reliefs sought are:

* an order that the defendants make restitution of two amounts of RM74 million and RM16.5 million which were wrongly paid out in the Bakun project;

* an order that damages be assessed and be paid by the defendants for wrongly giving away plants to Sinohydro;

* an order that damages be assessed for all losses caused by the defendants and suffered by the plaintiffs in the Bakun project to be paid by each of the defendants;

* aggravated and exemplary damages to be paid by each defendant;

* alternatively, an order that damages be assessed on the basis that each defendant acted in breach of trust and fiduciary duty and an order that such payment be made;

* an order that Mohd Shukri and Ahmad Zubir make restitution of RM851,313.49 each; and

* interest and costs.

Sime Darby said the suit was filed in the interest of shareholders when in September 2009, the board of directors realised that there were cost overruns in four projects executed by the energy and utilities division including Bakun dam project. The Bakun dam, which is located in Sungai Balui, Sarawak, is the country's largest hydroelectric dam which can generate 2,400MW of electricity.

Yesterday, Sime Darby filed a suit against the three defendants and two other senior executives over their alleged roles in the massive RM1.7 billion losses suffered by its energy and utilities division this year.

Sime Darby is claiming at least RM338 million from the five, with almost half of that from Ahmad Zubir and Mohd Shukri. It is also seeking damages for losses caused by them in three projects and any aggravated or exemplary damages. The suit deals with three projects, namely the Bulhanine and Maydan Mahzam project with Qatar Petroleum, the Maersk Oil Qatar project and building of marine vessels for the Maersk Oil Qatar project.

Ahmad Zubir was asked to take a leave of absence in 13th May 2010 ahead of his employment term expiring 26th November 2010. In July 2010, Datuk Mohd Bakke Mohd Salleh was named acting president and group chief executive officer.

The suit is fixed for case management on 9th March 2011.

Sime Darby recorded RM1.7 billion in cost overruns for the three projects and the Bakun hydroelectric dam project earlier this year, causing it to allocate a RM2.1 billion provision.

The extra costs led Sime Darby to post losses in the third quarter to March 2010, its first quarterly loss since its mega merger with state-owned Golden Hope Plantations Bhd and Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd in December 2007.

Losses dragged on to the fourth quarter ending in June 2010 but Sime Darby continued to be profitable for the full year and has bounced back with a first-quarter profit for fiscal year 2011.

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