Felda graft probe

Kuching hotel purchase under investigation

Felda Chairman Shahrir Abdul Samad
Felda Chairman Shahrir Abdul Samad

Fresh move against Felda's investment arm comes amid probe into London property buy

PETALING JAYA • Another hotel bought by the investment arm of Malaysia's land development agency Felda has come under the scrutiny of the anti-graft body, with its parent company backing the latest probe.

The property is a four-star hotel that has 213 guest rooms and apartment suites in Kuching, Sarawak.

Sources say the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has started gathering evidence on the purchase, believed to have been overpaid for by millions of ringgit.

It is learnt that 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 visited three firms in Kuching yesterday to gather documents and to interview staff about the hotel purchase. They went to the offices of property consultant Raine & Horne International Zaki + Partners, international asset consultant Henry Butcher Malaysia (Sarawak) and developer Gegasan Abadi Properties.

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

The MACC obtained the information on the Kuching hotel while sifting through seized documents in its ongoing probe into a high-end property purchase in Kensington in London.The London property, which has 62 guest rooms and two serviced apartments, was said to have been overpaid for by at least £20 million (S$35.6 million).

VOW TO BE CORRUPTION-FREE

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 whistle-blowers to bring back Felda to its former glory.

FELDA CHAIRMAN SHAHRIR ABDUL SAMAD, on the new probe.

Two people have been detained to assist with investigations into the London property and several top-ranking Felda officers have given their statements to the MACC.

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 Shahrir Abdul Samad said he 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 whistle- blowers 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."

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2017, with the headline 'Kuching hotel purchase under investigation'. Print Edition | Subscribe