PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Former Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor on Tuesday (Aug 16) pleaded not guilty to three charges of criminal breach of trust in connection with the littoral combat ship (LCS) scandal.

The 78-year-old former managing director of Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) was charged with approving payments of RM21.08 million (S$6.45 million) without the agreement of the company’s board of directors.

BNS is the company contracted to build six ships which have yet to be delivered.

Ahmad Ramli was charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court under Section 409 of the Penal Code for committing criminal breach of trust involving BNS funds.

He is alleged to have approved payments without the agreement of the company’s board of directors.

One of the charges involved a payment of about RM13 million to Setaria Holdings, which was done without BNS board approval.

Two other charges involved payments of RM1.36 million to JSD Corporation and RM6.18 million to Sousmarin Armada, also without BNS board approval.

Ahmad Ramli was named navy chief in October 1996. He retired in 1998 after serving the Royal Malaysian Navy for 35 years.

In July, The Star said that anti-corruption investigators were sure they had enough proof to charge a number of people involved in the multibillion-ringgit LCS project.

The LCS project is fast turning into one of Malaysia’s biggest financial scandals since the 1MDB debacle.

The BN government had in 2011 commissioned six LCS for RM9 billion without open tender, to be built by BNS and delivered from 2019.

But the contractor has failed to deliver a single ship despite the government paying more than RM6 billion to date.

On Aug 4, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed that some RM1.4 billion in government allocations for the LCS project had been used for other purposes, including cost overruns.

A huge amount of money meant for the uncompleted ships project was used to buy spare parts, including even TV sets, a special panel revealed.

The two-year probe by PAC also revealed that the RM9 billion project was done through direct negotiations with BNS and was inked in 2014.

The panel also pointed out that the contract was drawn up in such a way that any activity or movement was considered progress and the government just had to pay.

A panel member described the LCS project as contractor-driven in the sense that the views of the end user – the Navy – was not taken seriously in terms of its needs.

Ahmad Ramli was one of the two names implicated and is mentioned repeatedly in the PAC report.