Dr M tells Tabung Haji to nix 1MDB land buy now

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has urged Lembaga Tabung Haji to call off its purchase of land from 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has urged Lembaga Tabung Haji to call off its purchase of land from 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Lembaga Tabung Haji must call off its purchase of land from 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) immediately, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

Telling the Muslim pilgrims fund that it was overpaying for the deal, Dr Mahathir pointed out that 1MDB paid RM194 million for the 70 acres in the Tun Razak Exchange, where it will sell 1.5 acres to LTH for a reported RM188 million.

“Is this how Tabung Haji spends the money of the public that it is entrusted with? Contributors hope their savings with Tabung Haji is managed for their benefit, but these funds are being used to save 1MDB that has lost billions of ringgit.

“This plan must be cancelled immediately,” Dr Mahathir wrote on his personal blog today.

He then reminded LTH that its funds were the savings of Muslims planning to perform their Haj, and do not belong to the board members to do as they choose.

“It is depressing when these funds are used to bail out 1MDB’s debts,” he added.

Dr Mahathir has been critical of 1MDB and its reported debts, saying the unexplained allegations surrounding the state-owned investment firm, among others, necessitated his call for Datuk Seri Najib Razak to resign as prime minister.

Today, he also lashed out at former Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim who accused the former prime minister of being responsible for financial scandals worse than 1MDB.

“Prove also that I made off with the government’s money! If you cannot, just shut up,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, news began surfacing that LTH was buying two parcels of land from 1MDB, purportedly for nearly RM800 million.

LTH chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim immediately denied this, before the board confirmed the deal the next day albeit for one parcel at RM188 million instead of two as initially believed based on documents leaked by an anonymous blog.

The confirmation has prompted bipartisan calls from lawmakers and private groups for LTH to explain the “high-risk” transaction.

The Tun Razak Exchange, planned as a 70-acre financial centre within the capital, is one of two high-profile property projects in 1MDB’s portfolio.

1MDB is currently under investigation by the Auditor General’s Department and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.