MARA Will "Leave No Stone Unturned" After Bribery Accusations In Melbourne Property Deal

MARA chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa called for a press conference earlier today in response to the bribery allegations made against its top officials.

Cover image via Najjua Zulkefli / The Malaysian Insider

MARA to hand over documents to MACC over Melbourne property deal

Tan Sri Annuar Musa

Image via SnipView

Documents relating to the acquisition of assets by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) overseas have been submitted to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for investigation.

"So, let investigation be carried out. We have nothing to hide," said MARA chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa.

Annuar, who is also the Ketereh Member of Parliament, said his officers would not cover up anything relating to the purchase of MARA assets abroad and would cooperate with the various parties if required to.

RM 375.4 million spent to purchase four properties in Melbourne

Image via The Edge

Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA)'s investment arm, MARA Inc, spent a total of RM375.4 million to purchase four properties in Melbourne in 2013, and Dudley International House was the cheapest of all, National Oversight and Whistleblowers director Rafizi Ramli said today.

The most expensive purchase was the 746 Swanston Street property, bought for RM138.6 million, followed by 333 Exhibition Street for close to RM100 million and 51 Queens Street at RM70.4 million.

MARA directors, including chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa, were briefed about the rental projects in May last year, which should have led the Mara Council to cancel the purchases, said Rafizi.

"The suggestion should have been rejected by MARA Council immediately. This shows there are elements of negligence, abuse of power, money laundering, or just downright stupidity."

Rafizi said rental yields were likely on the low side for the MARA-owned properties because it had overpaid for the properties.

30 June: MARA used eight companies from three different countries to buy property in Melbourne

Rafizi Ramli

Image via Malaysia Chronicle

National Oversight & Whistleblowers Centre (NOW) director Rafizi Ramli alleged that Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) used up to eight companies to hide its tracks after purchasing four properties in Melbourne.

Rafizi Ramli, who is also PKR secretary-general, told a press conference today that for the purchase of 333 Exhibition Street and 51 Queen Street, MARA used their subsidiaries in Labuan, Singapore and Australia in a long-winded transaction chain to make the purchases.

For the transactions, the names of the companies were different, but the chain remained the same, beginning in Labuan and ending in Australia. The Age (Australian paper), in exposing MARA’s recent purchase of Dudley International House, said that "kickbacks" for MARA officials were made through a Singaporean company.

The chain of transaction for the four properties are as follows:

For 333 Exhibition Street: MARA Inc allegedly made purchase via Powerwell Holdings Limited, registered in Labuan, followed by Singapore company Carlton Garden Lte Ltd, and Australia's Peters Equity Pty Ltd, all fully owned by Mara.

For 51 Queen Street: the purchase was made through Vortex Holdings Limited in Labuan, Marinn Property Pte Ltd in Singapore, and Queville Pty Ltd in Australia.

For Dudley and 746 Swanston Street: MARA Inc used an offshore company in British Virgin Islands called Thrushcross Land Holdings, while Mara Investment (Australia) Pty Ltd are the asset managers for all the properties.

Rafizi went on to question why investigations were not conducted earlier when it was blatantly obvious that there was something suspicious about the structure

Tan Sri Annuar Musa

Image via The Star

Rafizi said the structure of the deals itself should have raised alarm for Mara chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa when he took over the post in 2014.

"Should he not be aware that this is problematic by just looking at the structure?" Rafizi asked.

He also questioned why investigations into the property purchases were not made earlier, even though Annuar and his team were allegedly briefed about the property purchases on May 20 last year.

Rafizi added that future revelations in the coming days would show that the rental yield did not bring the kind of returns expected from these properties, and that they were not "worthy investments". Rafizi and NOW will continue their series of revelations regarding the MARA property purchases with another press conference tomorrow morning.

29 June, 2pm: IGP says no element of CBT detected, hence investigations to be handed over to MACC

Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar

Image via Today Online

There was no element of breach of trust in Mara's purchase of an apartment block in Melbourne, the Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said today.

Speaking to reporters at Bukit Aman police headquarters here today, the top cop however said the police will allow the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission investigate the matter thoroughly.

"The CCID will not be involved (in the investigation), so far not yet. As there is no element of breach of trust in this case, the investigation will be fully under MACC," he stressed.

Vendors confess MARA property in Melbourne was bought for inflated not lower price

Journalist Nick McKenzie

Image via ABC

Vendors for Dudley International House in Melbourne have admitted in a sworn testimony that they inflated the price of the property, rubbishing claims by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) that it paid lower than the market rate for the property.

"The assertion that the property price wasn't inflated is false. The vendors admitted in a sworn testimony in court that the price was inflated from AS$17.8 million to AS$22.5 million," said journalist Nick McKenzie.

McKenzie said the paper also have in its possession, "false invoices" to prove that a bribe was indeed paid. More news to come as PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli promises to reveal more evidence on the deal in a press conference today.

25 June: Aussie police launches raid on several properties believed to be used in Mara's laundering

Australian Police seizing evidence

Image via The Age

Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers have launched raids in Melbourne as part of an international bribery and money-laundering investigation involving high-ranking Malaysian officials, businessmen and the purchase of Melbourne property.

Federal agents seized computers and files on Thursday morning from a home in Vermont South and it's believed several other properties were targeted across Melbourne.

The AFP's Operation Carambola was launched in response to an investigation by Fairfax Media into a scheme involving Malaysians using multimillion-dollar Australian properties to launder funds and return "kickbacks" to Asia.

On 23 June, a front-page exclusive by Australian daily The Age reported that several top officials from MARA Inc. (a subsidiary investment arm of Majlis Amanah Rakyat) had overpaid for an apartment block in Melbourne, with the A$4.75 million (RM13.7 million) being pocketed as bribes

Speaking during a press conference at MARA headquarters earlier today, MARA chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa said that the exposé came as no surprise to them as MARA Inc. was already being audited and investigated for not adhering to certain regulations since two months ago

"We were in the midst of conducting an internal auditing process on MARA Inc. when the report by The Age (Australian newspaper) came out," he said in a press conference at the MARA headquarters in Kuala Lumpur today.

"So, it was not a shocking news for us as MARA was already taking action‎. But we will take the report from The Age as additional information to help our ongoing investigation into MARA Inc."

However, Annuar, who is also Ketereh MP, refused to disclose what had triggered the internal audit into MARA Inc., which has been accused of overpaying by A$4.75 million (RM13.8 million) for hostel in Melbourne, Australia in 2013.

According to Annuar, MARA was under the impression that MARA Inc. had acquired Dudley House at a bargain as they were unaware that its price had been inflated above the market rate

“To our knowledge at the time we did not know that the price was high. We thought that the price was below the market rate,” Annuar explained.

Annuar said its subsidiary, MARA Incorporated (MARA Inc.), which was set up in 2008, had begun the process to purchase the property in early 2012. MARA then approved the purchase at the end of the same year, he said.

"To the best of our knowledge, all due processes in buying the property were followed by Mara Inc. But as for allegations that it bought the property at an inflated price, that is something that we need to investigate," Annuar said, adding that the Melbourne property was purchased before he became chairman.

Annuar also said that the purchase was in line with procedures and guidelines set by the Finance Ministry, including obtaining approval at the highest level from the National Economic Council (EC), which is headed by PM Najib Razak

"The Prime Minister’s approval is part of the procedure. As soon as the proposal for purchase was approved by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry and the Finance Ministry, it approved by the Economic Council,” said Annuar.

While he does not deny the allegations made by The Age, Annuar asserts that the agency will allow an independent body to investigate the claims and that MARA will give full co-operation to any external investigations in addition to conducting an internal probe

Admitting that The Age report was done "professionally", Annuar said, "It is not proper for me to deny the allegations but we will allow an independent body to investigate this."

Besides an internal probe, the MARA chairman said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should also look into the matter, adding that the council would give its full cooperation to any external investigations.

In regards to their involvement in the alleged bribery case, MARA Inc. officials have been instructed to provide a written explanation in seven days. Annuar also said that "no one will be protected if there was any proof of misconduct" as the investigation will "leave no stone unturned"

"Mara Inc officials have been given seven days to response to the allegations in writing," he said.

"There is no question of a cover-up. No one will be protected if there was any proof of misconduct. Stern action will and must be taken against those responsible," Annuar said.

"We are very serious about this. We will go by the book and those responsible will have to pay the price. We will leave no stone unturned."

Although the property deal was finalised in 2013, details of alleged bribery only emerged recently. Get the low-down here:

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