By Alastair Ferrans & Stuart Milne
Malaysian businessman Vinod Sekhar, who made an £8 million pledge for the new Bute building, which never materalized, is facing legal charges that could see him landing in jail.
The money was originally pledged in 2008, three years after Sekhar was declared bankrupt by the Kuala Lumpur High Court for failing to settle debts totalling £2.4 million.
Controversy has followed Sekhar since then, as a pledged donation to the charity Hopes and Homes for Children was also never received.
The owner of the Petra Group is now facing jail in his home country. He is accused of being a director in 25 different companies and of leaving Malaysia without permission from the Malaysian director-general of insolvency whilst bankrupt. Sekhar is due in court in November.
Sekhar has failed to respond to the charges leveled against him, his lawyer citing it would amount to “sub justice” as the matter is now in court.
Once dubbed the Richard Branson of South East Asia, and named the 16th richest man in Malaysia in 2008 by Forbes Magazine, Sekhar intended that the donation would form, “a new academic bridge between Scotland and Malaysia for the benefit of both countries.” It was set to be the largest single donation ever received by a Scottish university.
The businessman first emerged on the global scene in 2008 when his company Green Rubber was to be floated on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), a plan which has not yet come to fruition.
The new Medical and Biological Sciences Building, which opened its doors to students on September 19th, 2010, was originally to be named after Sekhar’s father, Malaysian rubber tycoon Dr B.C. Sekhar. However, after he failed to deliver on the donation, the University was forced to look elsewhere to fund the project.
The University continued with the building, reliant on donations from parties such as the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Robertson and Yelsel Trusts.
Other schemes include the ‘Sponsor a Seat’ programme, which offers clients the opportunity to pay £500 in exchange for a name plate on one of the main lecture theater’s 300 seats.
The University website describes the £45 million project as “the biggest and most ambitious the University has ever undertaken.”
A spokesperson for the University of St Andrews maintained, “We continue to receive assurances from Vinod Sekhar that he will honour the longstanding promises and commitments he has made to the University of St Andrews.”
Although the building work is now complete it is not set to be formally opened until November, two months after the first students have moved in.
The University spokesperson added that, “At present, there are no proposals to name the building after any individual donor.”