KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S former steel tycoon Eric Chia, a close associate of ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad and who was acquitted on charges of embezzlement has died aged 74, according to a report on Tuesday.
Chia, who was managing director of the government-owned steel company Perwaja, died at about 0100 GMT (5pm Singapore time) in a city hospital after suffering breathing difficulties, the Star daily reported on its website.
The tycoon made headlines in 1994 when he was charged with criminal breach of trust for misappropriating 76.4 million ringgit (S$32 million) and Perwaja almost collapsed under debts exceeding three billion dollars.
The wheelchair-bound Chia, upon his acquittal last year, said his vindication had come too late, the Star reported.
Chia said he had lost his family and was estranged from his son and daughter because of the shame, the report said.
Dr Mahathir could not be reached for comment.
Perwaja was one of several massive industrial projects initiated by Dr Mahathir in the 1990s to turn Malaysia into a regional high-tech manufacturing, financial and telecommunications hub.
The projects also included national car company Proton and the Astro satellite television service. -- AFP Click here: Former M'sian steel tycoon Eric Chia dies at 74: reportStraits Times, Singapore