That ‘awesome’ TV

Of political connections and intriguing claims.

Screengrab of Awesome TV's contentious news segment.

Good morning.

Some news before we get to today’s brief: The Malaysianist will be outside the paywall until the end of the general election. All content will be free until the end of November 19.

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Let’s talk about media ownership today. This is a quick one since it’s a reaction to a clip of a racist news bulletin making rounds on social media.

Outgoing Klang MP Charles Santiago tweeted this thread or statement in reaction to the clip:

Basically, the news presenters cited data by a recent survey undertaken by media groups and think tanks that found 80% of Chinese voters were expected to cast their ballots on November 19.

The presenters went on to state:

“All Malay voters must come out to vote to fulfil their civic duty if they don’t want political power to be controlled by other races… if Pakatan Harapan (PH) were to win.

“If Malays don’t vote, politicians who should not hold power will come to power and marginalise Malay rights.”

They added that Pakatan Harapan prioritised non-Malay issues during its 22-month stint in power.

Awesome TV is a free to air channel that’s available on Astro and MyTV. But it does have controversial owners and directors. Here’s a breakdown:

I.

The holding company, Awesome TV Network Sdn Bhd, has as directors: Irwan Shah Abdullah @ D. J. Dave, Mohamed Ilyas Pakeer Mohamed, Johan Mohamed Ishak, Adam Mohamed Ilyas, Ezzan Zalilah Zulfadzli.

Mohamed Ilyas Pakeer Mohamed, a businessman, controls Awesome TV.
Mohamed Ilyas Pakeer Mohamed, a businessman, controls Awesome TV.

D. J. Dave is a singer and an Umno member. In a 2011 interview, he told The Star: “I reach out to the people through my songs. That is how I contribute best to Umno.” He also told the English-language daily that he is more of a behind-the-scenes type.

Mohamed Ilyas is Adam’s father and Ezzan’s father-in-law. Adam, who’s Awesome TV’s chief executive, is also Ezzan’s husband. Now, I couldn’t find any political links to this trio. But their names, together with Johan, ring a few bells.

Mohamed Ilyas and Johan were chairman and director of beleaguered Serba Dinamik from June to November last year. They joined the oil and gas services provider when it was in the thick of a financial scandal.

Serba Dinamik’s then auditor KPMG flagged RM4.6 billion in transactions. KPMG said it was not able to identify counterparties in the transactions.

Mohamed Ilyas would go on to call KPMG a “shoplot auditor” and claim he had discussions with regulators Bursa Malaysia and the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) regarding the matter. Bursa and SC denied having such talks.

When Mohamed Ilyas and Johan quit Serba, they blamed Bursa, saying the regulator’s demands stopped them from discharging their duties.

Serba Dinamik would be charged by the SC for submitting false statements to the Bursa. But the Attorney-General’s Chambers agreed to have all charges compounded following a representation from the company.

II.

Awesome TV, incorporated in 2019, is so far loss-making. According to the company’s 2020 annual report, it posted a net loss of RM36 million for that financial year.

The company is owned by Awesome Broadcasting Sdn Bhd, AP Holding Bhd, and Ezzan. It’s a family business. Awesome Broadcasting is owned by Adam. Ezzan is Adam’s wife as mentioned earlier. AP Holding is controlled by Mohamed Ilyas.

Now, AP Holding touts itself as an investment holding company and claims to have RM2 billion in assets under management and promises a 6% return annually.

Screengrab from AP Holdings' website. The company makes some interesting claims.
For a new company, AP Holding makes some interesting claims.

Under its portfolio, it only lists Exchange 106. On April 11, 2021, Ilyas took to the press claiming that he took over the Finance Ministry’s stake in the skyscraper, which is about 51%, saying it was a “fantastic deal”.

Pic: AP Holding

This led convicted former prime minister Najib Razak and then Klang MP Santiago to question the deal and urged the finance ministry to explain the stake sale. Ilyas would quickly issue an about-turn, saying it had not acquired the government’s stake, calling the whole episode a “miscommunication”.

During this kerfuffle, Mohamed Ilyas used a different vehicle: Koperasi Amanah Pelaburan Bhd. AP Holding — established on August 28, 2020 — seems to be a newer vehicle.

AP Holding is claiming that you can co-own Exchange 106 but doesn’t specify exactly how.

Screengrab from AP Holdings' website detailing supposed returns from owning Exchange 106.
Pic: AP Holding

Aside from Mohamed Ilyas, other shareholders in AP Holding are Sulaiman @ Mohamed Helmi Mohd Ilyas, Mustafha Abd Razak and Azham Othman.

Sulaiman is Mohamed Ilyas’ son while Mustafha was the former Bank Rakyat managing director, who was charged with and acquitted of criminal breach of trust over an RM15 million book project for the biography of a “prominent figure”.

For what it’s worth, there isn’t any change of ownership in Mulia Property Development Sdn Bhd, the holding company of Exchange 106. The finance ministry, through MKD Signature Sdn Bhd, still holds 51% while the remainder belongs to the Mulia group.

AP Holding promises returns but doesn't state how. Pic: AP Holding

III.

Awesome TV denied that the clip was racist. In a statement yesterday, the broadcaster said the segment was directed at the Malays being unresponsive to voting in the upcoming general election.

The company spokesperson added, “otherwise, a government not of their preference will rule Malaysia to the detriment of their welfare.

“That is the premise of the news reporting and it is not racist in sentiment.”

From the archives

Still on the media ownership theme: here’s an older but relevant article on former second finance minister II Johari Abdul Ghani’s media businesses.

He owns news portal Free Malaysia Today and is also the second-largest shareholder of media group Media Prima Bhd.

Johari is running for the Titiwangsa seat under Barisan Nasional, aiming to wrest the seat after losing it to Bersatu's Rina Harun in the previous election.

He’ll be up against PH’s Khalid Samad, Gerakan Tanah Air’s Khairuddin Abu Bakar and Perikatan Nasional’s Rosni Adam.

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