Chairman, CEO of Malaysia's Mara suspended to facilitate probe into Melbourne properties

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK/REUTERS/BLOOMBERG) - Two top bosses of Malaysia's Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) have been temporarily relieved of their duties to facilitate investigations into the controversial purchase of Melbourne properties, says Tan Sri Annuar Musa.

The two are chairman Mohammad Lan Allani and chief executive Abdul Halim Rahim.

The Mara chairman said the move was to preserve the integrity of Mara, and not an indication that the duo were guilty.

He also said accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) had been appointed to scrutinise all Mara's overseas investments.

Mr Annuar said Mara was also co-operating with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) who are investigating the allegations.

He said Mara noted the statement by the police that there was no element of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in the case and would be meeting them to discuss the case further.

Mara, the Malay acronym for the People's Trust Council, was originally set up to drive development and provide financial assistance to Malays. It also offers overseas scholarships and operates junior colleges across Malaysia.

Malaysia last week said it planned to investigate allegations that its officials spent millions in government funds to buy an apartment block in Melbourne at an inflated cost. They also allegedly received kickbacks for the deal.

Mara is conducting an internal audit and assisting in a probe by the MACC, officials from the agency told reporters at a news conference last week.

Mara had said in a statement that it "would not hesitate to take any action to safeguard its integrity, should there be any irregularities".