LAST_UPDATESat, 23 Jun 2018 10am

Was Mokhzani’s ‘Gift In Business’ What Landed Him On The Top 10 Richest M’sians List?

Former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s son Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir may have dropped out of the top 40 richest Malaysians list this year after he sold his listed shares in Sapura Energy and left the Oil and Gas (O&G) business.

But in 2014, he was listed as the country’s top 10 richest people by Malaysian Business magazine, with his estimated wealth reported to be RM4.22 billion, making him the second richest Malay behind businessman Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary – and his wealth growth throughout the years remains questionable until today.

In fact, the Opposition made a hoo-ha about Mahathir’s sons being overnight billionaires previously with then Pakatan Rakyat (PR) vowing its first steps were to end cronyism should it win the 2013 General Election, alleging the nonagenarian reaped the riches of the country’s national oil company for his family, namely his son Mokhzani.

Though years later, their father who is now in the Pakatan Harapan camp and as its prime ministerial candidate has grappled to elaborate on the timeline of his offspring’s instant wealth by only choosing to make a stance that my sons are not billionaires and that “what Mokhzani earned was through his own hard work.” 

Chronologically, political analyst Lim Sian See, highlighted in a Facebook posting, how in 2001, Mokhzani who was then chief executive officer (CEO) of Pantai Holdings Bhd and Tongkah Holdings Bhd had announced his withdrawal from the corporate world, citing “many wild allegations linking me with government projects or mega projects.”

He also told Bernama he felt the untrue allegations were deliberately done by individuals who are out to discredit his father and him, while denying his decision to sell his entire direct and indirect interests in companies listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE), was because he was sulking.

Though Mokhzani claimed he “will just do small businesses" after his departure from the corporate world, later in that same year, Lim points out that he sets up Kencana Capital with a huge capital of RM30mil.

“Kencana then enters Oil and Gas business by setting up by taking over a small fabrication yard of 11 acres and rebranding it as Kencana Petroleum and within months, was awarded a Major Fabrication (Offshore Structures) license by Petronas,” Lim wrote, adding that two years later, in November 2003, his father retires as prime minister and is immediately appointed as Petronas advisor.

Fast forward to 2011, Kencana Petroleum now valued at RM6 billion merges with Sapura Petroleum to form SapuraKencana where Mokhzani sat comfortably as group CEO, before he was named the ninth richest person in Malaysia in 2014.

In 2016, months after Mahathir was removed as Petronas adviser following a unanimous decision by Cabinet to terminate his appointment as he was no longer supporting the current Government after he signed the Citizens’ Declaration, Mokhzani went his separate ways from his Kencana Capital business partner Datuk Yeow Kheng Chew.

Lim adds that Mokhzani reportedly “cashed out billions by selling off stake in SapuraKencana” before resigning and exiting the sector despite crude oil prices picking up. The Star reports, sources claim that “he does not foresee the O&G industry turning around anytime soon, and would rather deploy the capital into new industries.”

However, concluding the chronology, Lim asks the readers to connect the dots, “Is there a connection? Or the (Mahathir’s) sons are just naturally gifted in business as what Mahathir and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) supporters claim?”

Perhaps the longest serving Malaysian prime minister has some explaining to do to justify that he is no kleptocrat and that the source of his family’s wealth is genuine, aside denying that his son had abused power to become Malaysia’s top ten billionaire at one point. Otherwise, French novelist Honore de Balzac’s maxim “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime” proves to be true after all.