PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) was allegedly forced to sell 2,800 acres of its land at Sungai Buloh at below market price of RM1.5 billion in 2010, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said today.
She said the current MRB board had in November 2018 reported the transaction to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the National Audit Department for a thorough audit and further investigation.
“In October 2010, the Barisan Nasional (BN) government under former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had approved and instructed the sale of the land located in Sungai Buloh, known as Lot 481, to Aset Tanah Nasional Bhd (ATNB) in a direct sale,“ she said at a press conference here.
She said the land was subsequently bought by Kwasa Land, a wholly-owned company under the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), for a consideration of about RM2.28 billion, resulting in a RM800 million shortfall.
“MRB was arbitrarily paid RM1.5 billion, which is below the market price. And now, it has come to MRB’s knowledge that the said 2,800 acres of land was subsequently flipped to KWASA Land for RM2.28 billion,“ Kok said.
“MRB has, therefore, been short-changed by about RM800 million. MRB is lawfully entitled to the difference of RM800 million. Unfortunately, this sum is still unaccounted for, to date.”
The minister in charge of MRB back in 2010 was Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, who held the Plantation Industries and Commodities portfolio from 2009 to 2013.
When asked if MRB board members will be lodging a report against the previous Cabinet including Dompok, MRB chairman Sankara N. Nair who was also present during the press conference said he believed it will be part of MACC’s investigation.
A quick search on Finance Ministry’s website revealed ATNB is a majority-owned Minister of Finance Inc vehicle that accords the Finance Minister veto powers in the company board members’ decision-making.
Subsequent to the land sale to ATNB, Kok said the BN government in 2010 had also instructed MRB to utilise the RM1.5 billion it received to develop the remaining 585 acres in Sungai Buloh.
In 2012/13, the then MRB board members had resolved to develop five facilities which included an office tower, a new lab, a discovery centre (museum), sports facility, and a SEDEC complex for technology transfer.
MRB director-general Datuk Dr Zairossani Mohd Nor, who currently sits in the MRB board with Sankara, said the project cost was tagged at RM1.1 billion and the appointed project development partners were KLIA Consultancy Services Sdn Bhd and KLIA Associates Sdn Bhd.
Since the project only achieved a 5% completion after six years, Zairossani said the previous MRB board members decided to terminate the project in February 2018.
Kok added that the current MRB board has lodged a report to the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission on Nov 27, 2018 for breach of established MRB procedures which also resulted in about RM70 million in losses.
“Apart from this, the MRB board shall also proceed with disciplinary action against certain individual officers in MRB for wrongdoings,“ she said.
Meanwhile, Najib said in a Facebook post, that Kok had accused BN of “forcing the government to sell government land to the government” and, after that, giving EPF the opportunity “to rake in billions in profit for EPF contributors”.
“The BN government then must have been so despicable in taking care of their cronies – the EPF contributors.
“The government must have been so cruel to carry out development projects, as announced under the 10th Malaysia Plan,“ he said, referring to the Kwasa Damansara development in Subang, which was part of the Greater Kuala Lumpur Strategic Development Project announced under the plan.
Najib also defended the sale of the land, which was equivalent to the price of RM18.70 per sq ft.
He said Kwasa Land had already begun building a new township, including housing for 150,000 people, at a gross development value of at least RM50 billion.
“At the time, analysts were of the view that the price of the land was reasonable and according to market rate,“ he said.
Najib, the Pekan MP, also asked if Kok, who is the Seputeh MP, had no other work to do, such as to oversee the welfare of smallholders, increase the price of palm oil, and set up an oil palm club.
“If she is going to behave like that, I think it is better for her to refocus on her rubber tree umbrella plan, and also the oil palm ambassador plan,“ he added.