Malaysian anti-graft body investigates Felda's Investment arm over Kuching hotel buy

The Felda headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on June 8, 2017.
The Felda headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on June 8, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Another hotel bought by the investment arm of land development agency Felda has come under the spotlight of the anti-graft body, with its parent company backing the latest probe.

The property is a four-star hotel, comprising 213 units of guest rooms and apartment suites, and strategically located in Kuching, Sarawak.

Sources said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has started gathering evidence on the purchase, said to be overpaid by millions of ringgit.

It is learnt the probe will look into elements of corruption and abuse of power, resulting in Felda Investment Corporation (FIC) paying much higher than the actual market value. Anti-graft officers are expected to raid several FIC offices soon to seize documents and assist in the investigation.

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MACC director of investigations Datuk Simi Abdul Ghani confirmed that a new investigation paper has been opened and a thorough probe would be carried out.

The MACC obtained the information on the Kuching hotel while sifting through seized documents during its ongoing probe into a high-end property purchase in Kensington in London.

The London property, comprising 62 guest rooms and two three-bedroom serviced apartments, was also said to be overpaid by at least £20 million (S$35.5 million).

FIC is the investment arm of Felda and was set up in 2013 to focus on three sectors - hospitality, real estate and oil and gas. Felda was established in 1956 to help rural farmers plant cash crops.

When contacted, Felda chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad welcomed the new probe, pointing out that the Kuching hotel was bought by the previous board members of FIC for RM160 million (S$50.8 million).

"I see this as a positive development. Since taking over, I have pledged that Felda will be run with integrity and good governance. We have signed the corruption-free pledge and support whistleblowers to bring back Felda to its former glory," he said.

"This is what the settlers want and I will do my best to improve the administration of Felda from top to bottom."