KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 ― Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) thought its subsidiary MARA Inc got a good deal when it paid A$22.5 million (RM65.3 million) for a Melbourne apartment in 2013, its chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa revealed today.
The former federal minister pointed out that the purchase of the student apartment unit in Australia had received clearance from the National Economic Council chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and said MARA was not aware that the price had been inflated above the market rate.
“To our knowledge at the time we did not know that the price was high. We thought that the price was below the market rate,” Annuar told a press conference at the government agency's headquarters here.
In a damning news report published earlier yesterday, The Age incriminated top MARA Inc officials and two “elite” Malay businessmen to the questionable purchase of a Melbourne property said to be inflated by A$4.75 million.
The Australian said an eight-month-long investigation by Fairfax Media ― its parent publishing house ― uncovered a massive trail of documents across three continents to find out the real deal behind the A$22.5 million price tag “for a building designed like an IKEA cupboard [that] seemed well above the odds”.
However, Annuar maintained that the purchase followed “stringent” procedures, and said there was “no way” to know if the price had been artificially inflated.
“The purchase met all the stringent procedures but this was something beyond our control,” he said.
Annuar also did not clarify why the government had agreed to wire the A$4.75 million into the account of a shelf company, or if this was also allowed in its standard operating procedure.
“So far, to the best of our knowledge everything was according to procedure if you are talking in terms of procedure,” he said when asked.
But Annuar pledged that the matter will also be investigated by an internal audit on MARA Inc that was launched a few weeks back.
The audit followed information that MARA Inc, along with a few other MARA subsidiaries, was involved in suspected financial mismanagement.
The sale of Dudley House in Melbourne had raised questions during a liquidation proceeding in the Victorian Supreme Court, which prompted the Australian media to initiate its own investigation.
Annuar said MARA will co-operate and urged the authorities to investigate MARA Inc immediately, pledging that there will be no cover-up.