It cost TNB US$115 million for Mahathir to meet Bush

Mahathir might tell you he sometimes forgets what he did in the past or he was not aware of what people below him did. But he definitely remembers this Indonesian coal-mine deal because he personally instructed his crony-confidante to set up the company to front the deal. And he personally knows the proxies that were used in this company plus he personally called the TNB Chairman to instruct them to buy the coal-mine for US$68 million and to pay a 10% deposit.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he did not instruct anyone to pay anything for him to meet President Bush back in 2002. Other reports say Mahathir paid US$1.2 million for that meeting while The Age of Australia says it was $1.6 million Australian. The truth is it cost Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) US$115 million or about RM482 million for Mahathir’s meeting with Bush. But they dressed it up as if it was a business deal to make it appear above board.

What happened was Mahathir asked his very close crony-confidante to incorporate a Malaysian company and place it under the name of certain proxies. This newly incorporated company then negotiated to sell a coal-mine in Indonesia to TNB. An agreement was made between the Malaysian crony-company and PT Dasa Eka Jasatama (DEJ) and TNB was instructed to buy that Indonesian coal-mine for US$68 million.

TNB then paid a 10% deposit or US$6.8 million for the coal-mine, after which they took a loan from Standard Chartered Bank in London for the balance 90%. The loan was obtained from a UK bank to make sure that the details do not leak to members of the Malaysian opposition, as is normally the case – and then people like Rafizi Ramli and Tony Pua will start broadcasting it to all and sundry.

It was from the profit of this coal-mine deal that the Americans were paid to arrange the meeting between Mahathir and President Bush.

TNB lost US$66.24 million on the coal-mine operation and five years later they sold it off for US19.5 million, thus losing another US$48.5 million. That comes to a total of US$114.74 million or RM482 million, all because Mahathir wanted to meet President Bush.

So, Mahathir says he never instructed anyone to pay for him to meet President Bush. But he did instruct his closest crony-confidante to incorporate a company under the names of proxies and he did instruct TNB to buy a coal-mine in Indonesia. And, from the profit they made from selling this Indonesian coal-mine to TNB, they paid the Americans millions to arrange a meeting between Mahathir and President Bush.

This Indonesian coal-mine fiasco is no secret and everyone in TNB knows about it but no one will talk about it openly except through whispers in the corridors. The TNB Board of Directors was not happy about the deal but they were overruled by someone ‘high up’ from the Prime Minister’s Office back in 2001.

Initially some within TNB’s management spoke out about venturing into a business that they know very little about. Then there was the issue of price (whether the coal-mine was overpriced) plus viability (whether there is enough coal to sustain the operation). The viability and returns on investment (ROI) needed to be studied before TNB forks out close to a quarter billion ringgit.

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