Minister Rina Harun faces bankruptcy suit

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun is being dragged into bankruptcy, threatening her political career as she owes a Paris-based film and television programme production company RM1.9 million for content purchased nearly a decade ago.

Sarl Novovision, famous for its comedy sketches, pranks and funny videos, had issued several invoices to Rina’s now-defunct companies Eurofine (M) Sdn Bhd, Fine Mobile Network Sdn Bhd and Fine TV Network Sdn Bhd between 2011 and 2013 for comedy shows and documentaries purchased under the comedy genre.

Rina and Ida Rahayu Md Noor were directors of the companies.

Fine Mobile Network, Fine TV Network and Eurofine were wound up on Aug 11, 2014, Dec 3, 2014 and Aug 10, 2015 respectively.

However, Rina and Ida Rahayu had on May 28, 2014 executed a joint and several personal guarantee agreement with Sarl Novovision that they would personally and jointly undertake all liabilities of the companies towards any or all outstanding dues payable to the French company.

According to court documents, Ida Rahayu was declared bankrupt on Oct 5, 2015.

Rina, who is also Titiwangsa MP, was made Rural Development Minister after Pakatan Harapan won the 2018 general election. Earlier this year, she and several other MPs turned their backs on PH which led to the collapse of the 22-month-old administration led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Pledging allegiance to Perikatan Nasional, Rina was named Women, Family and Community Development Minister in March.

She is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Srikandi (women’s wing) chief.

A statement of claim against Rina was filed on Nov 8, 2018 for US$553,795.

A consent judgment was entered into on April 17, 2019 between Sarl Novovision and Rina where it was agreed that the minister was to only make 50 per cent of full payment by July 31, 2019.

However, Rina’s then lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla later requested that the US$276,897.50 be paid on Aug 31, 2019 instead, claiming the minister needed more time to raise funds.

In justifying the extension, Haniff had on July 29, 2019 written to Sarl Novovision’s lawyers saying: “As our client is currently holding position as a minister, her working schedule is very tight for her to find sufficient means to pay the full sum as agreed.”

Haniff added: “It would put parties in (a) ‘lose-lose’ position if your client choose(s) not to allow (the) one month extension, as the dispute will be prolonged and (will) affect our client’s reputation in the event your client choose(s) to proceed with execution proceeding, whereas this dispute can be resolved without much hurdle by granting only one month extension to our client.”

Rina, however, failed to meet the Aug 31, 2019 deadline.

It was only on Oct 1, 2019 that Rina paid RM450,000 followed by another RM100,000 on Nov 15, 2019.

According to the bankruptcy notice filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, an interest rate of five per cent per annum is imposed from the date of the statement of claim with Rina owing Sarl Novovision RM1,938,152.55, as of June 29 this year.

Rina was supposed to attend court in November last year with regards to the judgment debtor summons but failed to turn up “due to ministerial duties”.

Hanif no longer represents Rina. She is now represented by Messrs Mohd Irwan Mohd Mubarak.

Sarl Novovision, meanwhile, is represented by Messrs Chellam Wong. The firm’s partner Mark Ho, when contacted, said: “I can confirm that legal action has been taken against the minister and that bankruptcy proceedings have commenced.”

“There is a hearing date in respect to the judgment debtor summons fixed for Sept 9, 2020,” he added, without wanting to comment further.

It is understood a warrant of arrest can be issued by the court should Rina fail to turn up again.

Rina, when contacted yesterday afternoon, said she was in a meeting. Her press secretary Raja Noor Azlinda Raja Bahari Shah immediately reached out to Twentytwo13.

Raja Noor Azlinda was not aware of the legal suit and said she “would check” with Rina. There have been no updates from Rina’s side since.