This morning, an Australian newspaper, The Age made a startling revelation of a Melbourne property deal owned by Mara Incorporated.
The mention of an Australian media conjures up the name Rupert Murdoch doing a spin on Malaysia. His company, News Corp Australia controls 70% of the newspaper in Australia. However, The Age is owned by Fairfax Media Limited, the other owner of media in Australia.
Probably it is safe from unethical journalism for reading.
In a three-articled investigative feature on corruption money jacking property prices in Melbourne, they revealed that two Malaysians - one Dato Yusuf Gani and one Dato Azizi Ahmad - cut a deal for a Melbourne apartment block for A$17.8 million and got Mara Inc. to buy for A$22.5 million.
The balance of A$4.75 million is channeled back as kick-back via an outfit in Singapore. The identity of the two Dato is still being identified but The Age gave a background of two sons of Azizi - Erwin and Erwan.
Back in October, 2012, this blog had raised questions on MARA's foray into overseas properties. It was more of a reminder of the risk with many property deal failure by MARA in the past [read here].
There was concern back then that Malaysian companies' foreign property investment were rumoured to be linked to money laundering and bribes. However, MARA Inc was not accused.
There was a personal enquiry with a source within MARA made last year. The source said the purchases were good deals, fair yields with property fully rented out, and had undergo due process with documentations in place.
|Property in question: Dudley International House in Caulfield East, Melbourne
The Age reported that the property was purchased by MARA inc in 2013 and houses Malaysian student studying in nearby Monash University.
The price the deal was done shocked the neighbourhood. There have been concern in Australia of property used by foreigners as safe haven for corrupt money. Price does not matter thus making property prices shooting up.
The locals called it by an interesting jargon, "kickback inflation".
Fairfax Media claimed to have done a money trail for 8 months to three continent to come down to the following chart to described the first such documented case:
So as not to fall into a Sarawak Report trick by the mere mention of "traced suspicious money flows, court files and corporate records across three continents", read with caution till some form of documents are revealed as "evidential documents".
However, it cannot be totally dispelled. The Age reported that A$4.75 million bribe exactly correspond the standard 20% "kick-back surcharge".
The lead to this investigation by Fairfax came about in a court statement involving dispute between the developers and contractors. The Age reported:
There are also Australian facilitators tied to these suspect dealings, including Melbourne man Peter Mills, who once did a stint in Pentridge prison for corporate fraud. Mills was recently quizzed in a civil court case about whether the $4.75 million generated by inflating Dudley House's sale price was used "to grease palms" overseas.According to the same source in MARA, the property was bought from the developers, which is two JV companies, at their offer price based on their valuation. The MARA Inc official made an evaluation and it passed their investment criteria.
His reply was short but surprisingly honest. "Yeah, I think so".
The deal was partially funded by Westpac Bank and presumably they have made their evaluation. However, the bank may not be concerned with the real valuation should the property pledge with them and the valuation covers the loaned amount.
MARA Inc is not involved in the dispute between the contractors and developers. The contractors were not paid for the work done and brought the developers to court.
If the story from the source is true, the kickback may have occurred behind the scene and beyond the knowledge of the MARA Inc. operations.
Another source said there is a police investigation into the allegation by Fairfax Media.
The Age report revealed the intricate link of personalities were revealed. The other MARA Inc property in Swanston, Queen and Exhibition streets in Melbourne's CBD, are also implicated to the same group of suspect.
Available here, here and here.
Is this true or mere spin? An official explanation from MARA Inc should be forthcoming.
Hoefully there is no need to get Auditor General to come in, PAC to convene and Tan Sri Anuar Musa do a special briefing with former MARA Chairman, Dato Idris Jusoh barging uninvited. Anuar has denied involvement as the deal was done before his appointment as Chairman.
It could also be Dato Shafie Apdal giving the special briefing with his political foe barging in. MARA Inc. Chairman, Dato Lan bin Ilani is former state assemblyman within Semporna Sabah Parliamentary.
Rumours has it that Shafie is on "talian hayat" and could be dropped in the next cabinet reshuffle. This could also be a political game in the making. Nevertheless, Shafie is still featured in Bigdog's cabinet here.