MALAYSIAN tycoon Robert Kuok has bailed out ruling Chinese party MCA several times, once posting a RM20 million bail for one of its leaders and rescuing business projects that were doomed to fail.
In his memoir, Kuok said he “kept getting dragged into Malaysian politics” even after he relocated to Hong Kong in the 1980s.
In 1986, Kuok said, he was approached by the MCA leadership to post bail for its chairman, Tan Koon Swan, who had been charged with criminal breach of trust in Singapore.
The Singapore judge set bail at RM20 million, an amount unheard of at the time.
“I was in Kuala Lumpur. My car phone didn’t stop ringing,” said Kuok.
“The MCA leadership pleaded with me. ‘You are the only man who can save our face. We are not judging Singapore’s actions, but we cannot bear to see our president go to remand prison. We just want him out on bail. Please, can you stand bail? ’”
Kuok asked his mother for advice, and she told him that he should “stand bail for political reasons”.
“So, I went forward. I asked for special treatment from the Singapore government, allowing me to enter court through a side door because there was a media mob on the front steps,” said Kuok.
After several months of being freed on bail, Koon Swan was convicted and later jailed.
“When he was released, his first act was to proceed to Johor Baru to thank Mother,” said Kuok.
He said he was also “called in” when MCA was facing financial collapse several years later.
He was usually approached by the late MCA leader Tan Siew Sin, the son of party founder Tan Cheng Lock.
Siew Sin approached Kuok for political donations, in the former’s capacity as MCA president and Barisan Nasional treasurer.
“I got to know Siew Sin when he was serving in the government. He was the minister who erected roadblocks when I applied for the licence for Malayan Sugar Manufacturing.”
Kuok said he contributed funds to BN and MCA “especially when it comes to election time”.
He added that in the late 1980s, former MCA leader Ling Liong Sik came to see him in Hong Kong, seeking help to rescue Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd, which included half a dozen firms, such as Magnum Corp, a legal gambling syndicate; Bandar Raya, a large property development company; and, Dunlop Estate.
“I took (over the) chairmanship and, with the help of my Kuok Group colleagues Oh Bak Kim and Ong Ie Chong, we managed to turn it around.”
Kuok said in his lifetime, he had been given the job of “cleaning up” three highly controversial projects: Malayawata, the Japanese-invested integrated steel mill; the short-lived Malaysia-Singapore Airlines; and, Multi-Purpose Holdings.
Robert Kuok, A Memoir was first released in Hong Kong exclusively at Bookazine, and in Singapore at all major bookstores on Saturday. It will be released in Malaysia on Friday and in Indonesia on January 1.