DID Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob mislead the Dewan Rakyat on how much a government agency, which is supposed to help poor Malays, paid for a US$2 shell company?
That is the question by the Australian branch of a local civil society organisation, following a report that Mara Inc had paid A$41.8 million (RM138 million) for the shares of a shell company, Thrushcross Land Holdings Ltd, on August 28, 2012.
Mara Inc bought Thrushcross because the latter purportedly owned the 12-storey UniLodge building at 746, Swanston Street, Melbourne.
But at the time of the transaction, Thrushcross did not actually own the property, said the report in news portal Malaysiakini.
Mara Inc’s acquisition of UniLodge through Thrushcross has been called into question as it could have been bought directly from the actual owners – HRSV – at a much lower price.
In contrast, Ismail Sabri told Parliament in October 2015 that Mara Inc had paid A$64.4 million for Thrushcross’ shares – a difference of A$22.6 million.
Ismail Sabri is rural and regional development minister, whose ministry oversees Mara, the Bahasa Malaysia acronym for the People’s Trust Council.
“Why did Ismail Sabri mislead Parliament on October 20, 2015, when he said Mara Inc paid A$64.4 million for shares in Thrushcross?” said Praveen Nagappan of Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia in Australia.
“We now know that Mara Inc paid A$41.8 million in 2012 for shares in Thrushcross when it had zero assets, let alone ownership of the properties,” he wrote in a letter to The Malaysian Insight.
“What happened to the difference of tens of millions of dollars that should have been used to fulfil Mara’s objective of uplifting the Malay community?”
Praveen reproduced Ismail Sabri’s October 2015 parliamentary reply to Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, in which the minister stated:
“Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd (Mara Inc) had paid A$64.4 million to buy all of Trushcross’ shares in 2012. The purchase of the shares was to get ownership of Dudley International House and 746, Swanston Street.
“The acquisition of property was implemented according to the government’s procurement procedures, where approval was obtained at the board level (of Mara Inc), Mara’s investment panel, the Mara Council, the ministry, as well as the Finance Ministry.”
However in another Malaysiakini report, current Mara chairman Mohamad Lan Allani said the board would not have approved of Mara Inc’s purchase of Thrushcross.
Mara Inc’s large portfolio of overseas property holdings, particularly in Australia, has come under the spotlight following the revelation in 2015 of the alleged scandalous deal to buy another Melbourne property, Dudley House.
Mara’s property division then commissioned separate and independent valuation reports on all its properties.
Valuations by two Melbourne-based companies have confirmed that those involved in the UniLodge deal could have made as much as A$18 million.