KL agency 'overpaid for building by nearly $5m'

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian government agency Mara overpaid by A$4.75 million (S$4.9 million) when it bought in 2013 an apartment building used by students in Melbourne, with two Malaysian middlemen and "greedy developers" profiting from the deal, Australia's The Age newspaper has claimed.

The report on Tuesday is set to embarrass the Malaysian government, especially after Mara chairman Annuar Musa said yesterday that the deal was ultimately approved by the government's National Economic Council chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Responding to the report, Datuk Seri Najib yesterday tweeted: "Authorities here will do a detailed investigation of the allegations. If there is any evidence of wrongdoing and misuse of funds, action will be taken."

Mara, the Malay acronym for the People's Trust Council, is a statutory body under the Entrepreneur Development Ministry that provides student scholarships to Malays and trains them to become businessmen.

Mara paid A$22.5 million instead of the market "worth" of A$17.8 million for the five-storey apartment near Monash University, The Age said on Tuesday.

The Age said its report followed an eight-month Fairfax Media investigation that traced "suspicious money flows", court files and corporate records across three continents.

The inflated price paid, it said, "stunned local observers" in 2013 even amid the property boom.

The extra funds were sent back to Malaysia as "bribes", the paper claimed, citing documents and e-mail messages from a liquidator.

Mr Najib, who is also Finance Minister, wrote on his Facebook page yesterday evening: "If it is found that any parties have cheated or tried to deceive the members of the National Economic Council by supplying inaccurate or incomplete information, legal action will be taken against them."

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'KL agency 'overpaid for building by nearly $5m''. Print Edition | Subscribe