Malaysian anti-graft officers raid unit of Felda

A Felda signage at the Felda headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's anti-graft officers conducted a raid at the office of the investment arm of land development agency Felda yesterday, reported The Star news site.

The raid followed the discovery of fresh information obtained by the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC) that Felda Investment Corporation (FIC) bought a hotel in Kensington, an upmarket area of London, at a high price, resulting in millions of ringgit in losses.

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.

This is the latest investigation into possible corruption and abuse of power at Felda, which was established in 1956 to help rural farmers plant cash crops.

In March, two senior Felda officers were charged with criminal breach of trust over a RM47.6 million (S$15 million) investment in a sturgeon farming project in Pahang in 2014.

In 2015, the FIC was also probed by the MACC over the purchase of two high-end London properties, but the investigation did not unearth any wrongdoing, according to The Star.

With the next general election due by August next year, the Najib administration needs to tamp down voter unhappiness with alleged corruption in Felda, as 54 of 222 Parliament constituencies are decided by Malays living in oil palm and rubber plantations set up under the land authority.

In this most recent case, the four-star Kensington hotel was purchased between 2013 and 2015 for £60 million (S$107 million), and launched by then Felda chairman Mohd Isa Abdul Samad in December 2014.

Tan Sri Mohd Isa was chairman of Felda until January this year. A government audit last year found that Felda invested in dubious projects under Mr Isa, who was appointed to the post in 2011. These included forays into data management, broadband Internet and sturgeon farming, which collectively lost more than RM100 million.

He also used to be the chairman of Felda Global Ventures (FGV), the listed subsidiary of Felda that is one the world's largest producers of palm oil. He stepped down last month, two weeks after a bitter management dispute in which allegations of corruption were made.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline Malaysian anti-graft officers raid unit of Felda. Subscribe