High Court: Utusan Melayu VSS staff are trustees not creditors

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad (UMMB) staff involved in the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) exercise four years ago are entitled to the proceed of sales of the properties owned by UMMB and its subsidiaries.

High Court Judge Nadzarin Wok Nordin held that the employees in the VSS and UMMB’s subsidiaries and its related company were beneficiaries of the trust properties and not the creditors of UMMB.

“In relation to the VSS exercise, UMMB, its subsidiaries and its related company can be regarded as a single economic entity.

“As the court is of the view that the VSS employees who are involved in the VSS exercise are beneficiaries of the trust properties, they stand outside its liquidation process and be entitled to the benefit of the trust properties,” said the judge.

He also declared the 29 properties owned by UMMB including its subsidiaries, namely Utusan Publications & Distributor Sdn Bhd, U Print Sdn Bhd (in liquidation), Utusan Land Sdn Bhd and Juasa Holdings Sdn Bhd and its related company namely Mediamoney Sdn Bhd could be recognised as trust properties.

In his judgment, Nadzarin said the properties including several buildings situated in Jalan 5, Jalan Utusan Off Jalan Chan Sow Lin as well as Jalan 5, Seksyen 92 CSL here and Jalan P/10 Kawasan Perusahaan S/S 10 in Bangi, which leasehold tenure had expired were towards settlement for the VSS scheme by the plaintiff (UMMB) could be recognised or declared as trust properties.

He said the net proceeds, after deducting the necessary and compulsory payments such as real property gains tax; quit rent; assessment; liquidators fees; legal fees and miscellaneous payments on the sale less redemption sum ought to be paid to the stakeholders of the VSS employees.

Messrs Lavinia, Dell Akhbar Tee & Partners and Messrs Azmi & Associates were named as the stakeholders of the VSS employees.

He made the ruling in the originating summon filed by UHY Advisory as the liquidator representing UMMB as plaintiff against Rosmanizam Abdullah and 159 others as defendants (VSS employees).

According to the judgment, only eight payments were made by the plaintiff to the VSS employees prior to the Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL) on Oct 7, 2019 and there was still an outstanding sum of RM59,403,367.97 pursuant to the VSS, which subsequently lead to the setting up of a committee to resolve the outstanding payment issues.

The judge further added, before arriving at the decision, the court had since examined the VSS terms and conditions found in exhibits, which stated there were to be a total of 12 payments over a period of 12 months to the VSS employees and ought to be made after all statutory deductions, debts owing and other official process were completed.

“The court was also referred to the list of properties produced to the plaintiff solicitors as well as a letter dated Oct 8, 2019 from UMMB chairman at that time, Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir which was contended by the 160 defendants, which deemed that all proceeds of the properties belonging to UMMB would be used for the purpose of payment of the outstanding VSS.

“The agreement in the letter had been arrived at whereby the payments for the VSS would be made using the funds obtained from the sale of the UMMB assets,” said the judge.

Lawyer Abu Daud Abd Rahim representing the defendants confirmed the matter when contacted. – Bernama