‘Bank recklessness’ caused leak to Rafizi, NFC’s lawyer tells court

PUTRAJAYA: A commercial bank’s recklessness allowed its staff to divulge a business entity’s private and confidential bank account statements to Rafizi Ramli, who was an unauthorised third party, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Lawyer Shafee Abdullah said Rafizi then used the documents to destroy the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), one of five appellants appealing the dismissal of their case by the High Court more than three years ago.

“This is not only negligent, but a reckless act,” the lawyer said in his submissions before a three-member bench chaired by Justice Azizah Nawawi, and flanked by Justices P Ravinthran and M Nantha Balan.

Shafee said an internal inquiry conducted by Public Bank revealed that its clerk Johari Mohamad had, with the assistance of others, divulged the information to Rafizi.

“This is their own case. The details of the accounts were accessed from a bank computer between 9.25am and 9.45am on Feb 16, 2012,” he said during an online proceeding.

Shafee said Johari had resigned before the bank’s in-house tribunal found him guilty of misconduct for giving a printout of the statements to Rafizi on May 2, 2012.

However, the lawyer said that the evidence given by the bank’s employees in court was inconsistent with their own testimony at the internal inquiry.

“The High Court judge was drastically wrong for refusing to accept the findings of the internal inquiry,” he said.

Shafee also complained that the trial judge, who was about to retire, acted unfairly by rushing parties to complete the case.

“The judge was also prejudiced (against) my clients as can be seen in several passages of her judgment,” he added.

According to Shafee, his clients had suffered irreparable damage as a result and were not able to sustain the project to produce high quality beef at the National Feedlot Centre in Gemas, Negeri Sembilan.

“We have managed to prove our case as the burden in a civil case is lower compared to a criminal trial,” he said, adding the appeal should be allowed.

The bank’s lawyer, Yoong Sin Min, submitted that someone else could have provided the confidential information to Rafizi.

“(The appellants) could not show any causal link between Johari and Rafizi,” she added.

Yoong said the trial judge was correct to dismiss the suit.

“The onus was on (the appellants) to prove their case,” she said, adding that they could not simply rely on evidence adduced during the internal inquiry to conclude that the bank and its staff were liable for the alleged act.

Yoong said the appellants also failed to prove that the bank had breached its fiduciary duties or that there was a breach of contract as alleged.

She said any losses allegedly suffered by the appellants did not result from the leak but arose after the government froze the company’s bank account and suspended the project.

On July 29, 2019, Justice Su Geok Yiam, sitting in the High Court, ruled that NFC, its chairman Salleh Ismail, and subsidiary companies – National Meat & Livestock Corporation Sdn Bhd, Agroscience Industries Sdn Bhd, and Real Food Company Sdn Bhd – had failed to prove their case against the bank on a balance of probabilities.

Salleh is the husband of former minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

Initiated in 2012, the suit alleged that the bank had breached confidentiality by allowing details of banking transactions to be revealed by Rafizi.

They claimed that their business reputation and credibility suffered irreparable loss and damage due to the various breaches of statutory duties owed by the bank pursuant to the Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989 (Bafia).

They also claimed that their leaked bank account information was used by then PKR vice-president Rafizi on March 7, 2012 to bolster allegations that they had leveraged a government loan to buy eight KL Eco City properties.

They had sought RM560 million in damages from the bank.

The bench will deliver its ruling on a date to be fixed later.

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