KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Veteran newsman Datuk A Kadir Jasin challenged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today to sack Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Karim as Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) chairman over the fund’s controversial land deal with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Following announcement that LTH will be selling its RM188.5 million Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) barely a month after buying it, the former New Straits Times (NST) group chief editor said the move was “ridiculous and insincere”.
“This was a ridiculous and insincere work. If it was not exposed and savaged by the public, it would have been a done deal,” the vocal journalist said in his update blog.
“If Najib was not involved in this sales and purchase, and he does not want Tabung Haji’s name to be tarnished, we challenge him to sack Abdul Azeez and everybody involved with the 1MDB land purchase.”
Following advice from Najib, LTH announced today that it will sell its TRX land plot by next week with a profit of at least RM5 million, to “respect the sensitivities” of the rural Malay folks who had deposited their savings in the fund.
Azeez also claimed that LTH chief executive Tan Sri Ismee Ismail had played no role in the board’s purchase of land from 1MDB, having excused himself from the deal for fear of conflict of interest.
The Baling MP for Umno explained that Ismee, who is also a 1MDB director, had abstained from attending the meetings surrounding the pilgrim fund’s RM188.5 million land buy in the TRX.
The LTH chairman revealed that all discussions on the deal were chaired by deputy CEO Datuk Johan Abdullah, who is also the chairman of 1MDB’s subsidiary Edra Global Energy Bhd.
Despite Johan’s position in the 1MDB subsidiary, Azeez said there was no conflict of interest as he is not involved with any decision-making in 1MDB.
Similarly, LTH’s investment panel member Tan Sri Abdul Samad Alias is only an independent adviser for 1MDB with no decision-making capacity, Azeez said.
Another member of LTH’s board member, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Siregar Abdullah is also an independent adviser for 1MDB.
Other Umno members in LTH’s board are Tan Sri Badruddin Amiruddin (Umno Permanent Chairman), Tan Sri Mohamad Aziz (Umno Deputy Permanent Chairman) and Datuk Rosni Sohar (Umno Supreme Council member).
LTH garnered media attention earlier this week when it was reported that it paid 1MDB RM188.5 million for 1.56 acres of land in the TRX that the latter firm had purchased four years ago for just RM4.5 million at a rate of RM64 psf.