Crime & Courts

Mahfuz ordered to pay Sanusi RM250,000 in Vellfire purchase defamation suit

ALOR STAR: The High Court here today ordered Kedah Pakatan Harapan chairman Datuk Mahfuz Omar to pay Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor RM250,000 in damages in a defamation suit.

Judge Dr Arik Sanusi Yeop Johari allowed Sanusi's defamation claim against the Parti Amanah Negara vice-president over his statement on the purchase of a Toyota Vellfire multipurpose vehicle (MPV) by Syarikat Air Darul Aman (Sada) four years ago.

The court awarded Sanusi RM200,000 in general damages and RM50,000 in punitive damages, besides RM30,000 in legal costs.

Arik also ordered Mahfuz to issue an apology in a Bahasa Malaysia daily and an English daily within 14 days of the decision, as well as on Mahfuz's Facebook account, in terms that are approved by Sanusi.

The court also allowed Sanusi's application to seek a permanent injunction against Mahfuz, his agents and supporters from repeating the defamatory remarks.

In his judgment, Arik said Mahfuz's claims that Sanusi had ordered state-owned Syarikat Air Darul Aman Sdn Bhd (Sada) to buy the Vellfire for his personal use was a slander and with malicious intention against the menteri besar.

"This is based on the fact that the defendant himself has admitted in his statement that his remarks were made based on a paperwork document that he failed to verify its source."

He added that the plaintiff had also proven to the court that Sada had issued a statement regarding the matter before Mahfuz uttered the remarks against Sanusi.

"The witnesses presented by the plaintiff have also verified that the Toyota Vellfire was procured for Sada's top management and people authorised by Sada, and not for the use of the Kedah menteri besar.

"I also conclude that the defendant's defence based on fair comment and qualified privilege is not acceptable."

In October 2020, Sanusi filed the suit against Mahfuz over his Facebook posting alleging that Sanusi, who is Sada chairman, had bought the MPV by abusing Sada's fund.

Mahfuz had made the remarks in a posting, "Komen Politik Semasa", on Oct 17, 2020.

The plaintiff was represented by lawyers Yusfarizal Yussoff, ⁠Wan Rohimi Wan Daud, Mohd Faizi Che Abu and ⁠Adam Luqman Hamdan.

Mahfuz was represented by Muhammad Faiz Fadzil and Faizal Abdullah.

Faiz had applied for a stay of execution pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya.

The court subsequently ordered the defendant to submit a written application on the stay of application pending the appeal process.

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