This is probably an investor’s worst nightmare: losing life savings and homes. And these possibilities were the last things on the minds of a group of British investors who put their money in a Malaysian company. But according to them, that’s exactly what happened when they invested in the locally established Doxport Technologies Sdn Bhd.
In an email interview, a banker who only wanted to be known as Rahel, told us that the investment had devastated his family's life savings, including his retired father's savings. Rahel and family invested £180,000 or close to RM1 million in Doxport.
“We had to sell the family home to cope with all the debt which built up as a result. We had to move house several times, the debt collectors are always knocking on our door,” he said. Rahel added that his father lost his entire savings accumulated over 40 years.
What made the matter worse, was that Rahel's daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which needed treatment in the United States. “It has been a tough journey so far, we had to borrow a very large sum of money for my daughter's treatment in the US for a period of three months. The ongoing cost of travel left us (with a) huge debt,” he added.
The 37-year-old said before putting money into Doxport, he thought that Malaysia, as a Muslim country, was the epicentre of innovative Islamic finance and thought the people and processes could be trusted. “It's not like any other third world country. Its people have evolved, have a lot of integrity, are trustworthy and are embracing international investments to develop their country. It's the safest place to invest money in Asia and foreign investors would be treated fairly,” he said.
But after the investment turned sour, Rahel said: “It is the most corrupt country in the world. Its institutions have not evolved, lacks integrity, (there is) no transparency, no structure and their processes have no sense of controls.”
The London-based banker said Malaysia was not a place to invest in, and claimed that the government and its institutions would not assist or deal with investors “when the very obvious happens.”
“I say this with a heavy heart, after waiting five years, the authorities have done nothing,” he said referring to the investigations against Doxport.
Earlier this year, Rahel and the other investors filed a civil suit against former Umno treasurer Abdul Azim Mohd Zabidi and his IT company, Doxport, and two others, for allegedly misappropriating US$4 million (RM12.8million) in 2009. The suit was filed against Abdul Azim, T. Sivalingam, Gurmeet Kaur, and the company itself. Abdul Azim is the chairman of Doxport, while T. Sivalingam is the managing director of the company. The investors want their investment returned including other damages deemed fit by the court. In August, Gurmeet was charged by the Companies Commission of Malaysia for allegedly making a false statement in a company document.
These investors, calling themselves British Victims of Investing in Malaysia (BVIM), claimed they invested US$4 million into Doxport, which went towards equity in the firm and was to be used to purchase six VOIP Telecom Switches. BVIM claimed that Doxport solicited these funds on a false basis using fraudulent invoices and documents.
Based on BVIM's website, about 20 UK parliamentarians and members of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office have written to, among others, the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office, the Malaysian High Commissioner in the UK and the Malaysian Attorney-General. The group claimed they have not gotten a reply or acknowledgment for these letters.
In a second email interview, another banker told us he suffered similar losses as Rahel. Only wanting to be known as Steve, he said the investment totally ruined his plans for the future.
“We could not buy the house we wanted to buy and had to move out of London and live in rented accommodation for a few years. Almost all of my life savings were taken away from us unlawfully,” said this 42-year-old. This father of three said he did not have any impressions of Malaysia prior to the investment, but did not realise that “the rule of law and justice were so hard to get” here.
Steve, who is based in Buckinghamshire, was unwilling to share the amount invested in the business, but added that it involved almost all his life savings. He said Malaysia was not a country for investment, claiming it was too corrupt, while advising other investors to stay away.
We met with another two investors, Naeem Darr and Riaz Ramzan, who were working with authorities here in the investigation of this case. “We want people to be extra careful and do not want anyone to go through what we have gone through,” Naeem said.
He added that he and Riaz wanted justice for the group as they had involved their family members and friends into this failed investment. The pair told us that they met with Najib, former deputy international trade and industry minister Mukhriz Mahathir in 2010 over the issues. They also met with former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In October, BVIM protested outside the World Islamic Economic Forum in London, where Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was patron. The group were voicing their disappointment over the duration it took for 'justice to be done' in Malaysia, as the investigations had gone into its second year.
And in early November, reports quoted Doxport's Sivalingam as stating that BVIM had unfairly accused the company of embezzling money.
Sivalingam had said the company had not collected any money or provided any documents to any of the 60 investors. He claimed the protesters from the October rally were from another firm and that it has taken Doxport to court.
He had said Doxport was now dormant, and that the company would answer all the allegations made against it in court.