Melbourne raids linked to Malaysian graft probe

SYDNEY - Australian police raided a home and a business in central Melbourne yesterday as part of a bribery investigation reportedly involving Malaysian government officials and a multimillion- dollar property deal.

Malaysia on Wednesday 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.

Australian Federal Police confirmed two premises in Melbourne were raided as part of a probe into foreign bribery allegations. Fairfax Media said the raids were directly linked to the Malaysian corruption allegations.

Fairfax reported earlier this week that the officials had overpaid by A$4.75 million (S$4.9 million) for the Dudley International House apartment block, bought in 2013 to house Malaysian students studying in Melbourne.

The alleged kickbacks went to Malaysian firms that had close links with a senior official at the government agency Mara, the report said. It also named other Malaysians who were involved in the deal.

The same group of high-ranking Malaysians were also allegedly involved in Australian property deals worth about A$80 million, including offices and apartment blocks purchased in Melbourne's central business district.

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.

Mara is conducting an internal audit and assisting in a probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, officials from the agency told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday. Mara said in a statement that it "would not hesitate to take any action to safeguard its integrity, should there be any irregularities".

The Australian government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's government has been roiled by corruption allegations surrounding Malaysian state- linked entities, including the debt-ridden investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'Melbourne raids linked to Malaysian graft probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe