Deepak Jaikishan, who shot to fame following the statutory declarations made by a private investigator implicating Prime Minister Najib Razak in the Altantuya Shaaribuu murder, is now making waves of a different sort and in perhaps the most cynical of places - Malaysia's corporate world, where critics often deplore, business is intertwined with politics.
Deepak, also known as First Lady Rosmah Mansor's 'carpet man' because his family runs a rug shop along the bustling Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman road, has emerged as a substantial shareholder in Envair Holdings Bhd, a loss-making producer of air and water filters slated to be transformed into an oil-and-gas company. The stock is listed on the Mesdaq Board for small and mostly tech shares.
"This is a major change for him. Even though Envair is a small firm, it is still a bigger and different environment compared to his carpet business which was mostly retail-based. It shows how powerful connections are and sometimes it is who you know rather than what you know that makes the difference," a research analyst at a large brokerage told Malaysia Chronicle.
From selling carpets to oil-and-gas on Mesdaq
The 39-year-old Deepak bought a 5.06% direct stake Envair for RM1.32mil or 6 million shares at 22 sen apiece, and was keen to make it known that it would be a 'long term investment'. Nonetheless, his stilted statement was a giveaway of his unfamiliarity with his new habitat.
“I aim to be part of this thriving company's executive board and management. I hereby reiterate that I will not be selling down my stake in the future and, instead, hope to build it up in the days ahead," Star reported Deepak as saying
Other than Deepak's controversial background, which involves murdered Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, the transaction is eye-catching because Envair shareholder Jiang Chuan Yi sold his entire 6.75% stake in the firm less than a month after acquiring it on Nov 1.
Jiang, a Chinese national, did not say why he sold the shares or give any reasons for the unusual turnover. The sale was done via open market transactions at an undisclosed price. Shares in Envair ended one sen lower at 30.5 sen on Tuesday.
Harvest and Tiong King Sing
Coming hot on the heels of another penny-stock counter related to Prime Minister Najib Razak's family, Harvest Court Industries Bhd, there is red-hot talk that Envair may be the Najibs' latest 'vehicle' to ride on his name to tap money from the stock market. Speculation is rife that the deals were either to reap personal gains or to build a war chest for general elections which are widely expected to be called in 2012.
Indeed, shares in Harvest rocketed to a 9-year-high on news that Najib's 28-year-old son Nazifuddin had joined the board and taken a stake in the firm. So strong was the speculative fervor it generated that other penny stocks in the local market zoomed up on its coat-tails, prompting pundits to warn of another market debacle like that seen in the 1998 Second Board crash.
In the wake of the market commotion, Nazifuddin has sinced resigned from the Harvest board, but like Deepak, has pledged to hold onto his Harvest stake for the long term.
News that another Najib-linked figure, Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing, may sell off his 31% stake in timber firm Wijaya Baru Global has compounded the perception of Malaysian politicians trampling the market ahead of a landmark polls that may well see a change in federal government for the first time in 54 years.
Retired army Major Anuar Adam, who is linked to fallen tycoon Halim Saad, and is said to be backed by a group of Indonesian businessman for this deal, was reported by Business Times as being keen to pay Tiong RM1.10 per share for the Wijaya stake. Wijaya’s mother share closed 4.5 sen higher at 80.5 sen on Tuesday, while the warrants ended the trading day 9.5 sen higher at 33 sen.
"From Harvest to Envair and even Wijaya, these deals seen together can give a wrong impression. Even if they are sheer coincidence, it can look suspicious. To some seasoned investors, it is the classic crowd trying to rush for a narrow exit all at the same time and this is why they catch the market's attention," the research analyst said.
"It doesn't matter if it is for personal gain or all in the name of Umno and BN, and it would not be right if this was the case. Even if Najib and Perkasa say that it is for national interest or national security, it is still wrong. The share market is not a washing machine where you come and launder your dirty clothes. Fundraising for political reasons should be made a No-No, and retailers should be warned first and foremost. The regulators must beef up their rules. Why are politicians still allowed to hold active roles in listed firms, should they not give these up when they are in office. Either you are a businessman or a politician. In this day and age where transparency and good governance are so crucial, don't come and tell us you want to be a businessman-cum-politician! We have no place for you."
Abracadabra - from air filters to big-time Petronas largesse?
Meanwhile, Deepak sounded the charge for Envair's entry into the oil-and-gas business. Perhaps, it is due to ease of obtaining largess from national oil firm Petronas, but O&G appears to be favoured industry for the families of the politically powerful in Umno.
The families of former premiers Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Badawi are both involved in the sector through Kencana and Scomi respectively. Is it now the turn of the Najibs to eye a slice of the Petronas pie?
Envair had last month surprised the market by entering the O&G sector, after signing a joint marketing agreement with Resscom, which has a licence from Petronas to procure diesel and other oil and gas products. Envair assured investors that it could supply two million barrels of light crude oil monthly for 60 months to a China-based company, An Hong Shenzhen.
This high ambition appears to have been re-affirmed by Deepak, although he gave no indication of what expertise he would bring to or how he could contribute to such an effort.
“I have, by announcing my stake in Envair, decided to be part of this new business (oil and gas) and over the next few months, combine our strengths, to build the business further,” Deepak said.
Unresolved blast from the past
It might have been too much to expect Deepak to speak about P Balasubramaniam, the private investigator who had lodged a statutory declaration in 2008 that pin-pointed Najib's role in the Altantuya murder and Scorpene submarines acquisition.
Najib has denied ever knowing Altantuya but according to the Bala, the Malaysian PM not only knew Altantuya but had had an affair with her before 'passing' her over to his adviser and close friend Razak Baginda.
Then in an stunning switch, in less than 24 hours, Bala withdrew his SD and disappeared from sight. Eventually, he resurfaced and in a video watched around the world, told an amazing tale of how he had been given 2 cheques totalling RM5million by Deepak and forced to flee to Chennai where he is still in hiding with his family.
More startlingly, Bala also told of how he was bundled off to meet with a man he later found out was Nazim Razak, the PM's architect brother at the Volkswagon showroom in Kota Damansara where Nazim's wife, a former broadcast journalist was also present.
Deepak has denied Bala's story, although he admitted meeting him twice. "After (police officer) Suresh introduced us, I met him one more time. He asked me for money, it was either RM500 or RM1,000, but I told him I cannot (give him the money)... I didn't want to be involved in (Balasubramaniam's) financial matters,” Deepak had told a press conference in April 2011.
Nazim has refused to comment on the matter.
New deal sealed with Bala?
Deepak also rubbished speculation that he was Rosmah's "toy-boy" or "confidante", but said she was like "an older sister". He also praised her and Najib for their letters of commendation and introducing new clients to his carpet shop. "I first got to know her about six or seven years ago, when she visited our family shop. I know her, and treat her like an older sister," he added.
At that time, Deepak had called the press conference to douse speculation that he was trying to strike a new 'deal' with Bala, and bring the private-eye back to Malaysia, where the latter would sign a fresh SD absolving the first couple from involvement in the Altantuya murder.
Altantuya was 28-years-old when she was murdered by 2 former bodyguards of Najib's in a jungle clearing in Selangor. She was shot in the face and bombed with C4 to prevent identification, and many also say, to destroy any evidence that she had been pregnant at the time of her killing as she had purportedly told her killers. The two men are now on death row, still awaiting an appeal date despite having been judged guilty in 2008.
Evasions and denials
However, few Malaysians believe that only the duo are guilty but the authorities have remained deaf to calls to hunt down the 'real masterminds' behind the murder. According to a letter Altantuya wrote and to Bala's SD, the Mongolian beauty had come to Malaysia to chase for her USD500,000 share of commission due from the federal government's purchase of 2 Scorpene submarines from French giant DCN.
It is also telling that despite Bala offering to meet the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in London last year to lodge a formal statement regarding his meeting with Deepak and Nazim, the much-awaited meeting fell through after the MACC - which falls under Najib's direct purview - decided against going at the 11th hour.
The evasions - apparent throughout the federal government's handling of the Scorpene and Altantuya cases - have added to the suspicion felt against the first couple and their Umno party, despite their repeated denials they had nothing to do with the murder or submarines 'kickback', said to be worth at least 114 million euros or RM570 million.