Australia’s speed in probing MARA’s Melbourne deal puts Malaysia to shame, MP says

Australian police are investigating the Dudley House deal for possible money-laundering. — File pic
Australian police are investigating the Dudley House deal for possible money-laundering. — File pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — An opposition lawmaker questioned today Malaysia’s seeming lack of urgency in investigating Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) Inc’s property purchase in Melbourne when Australian police have already carried out raids in a corruption probe on the deal.

“The speed at which the Australian police have reacted to the media report puts our own force to shame,” Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said in a statement.

“All we have is a prime minister who appeared more interested in emphasising yesterday that all these culpable GLC (government-linked corporations) bigwigs are ‘innocent until proven guilty’,” the DAP publicity chief added.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday that no action will be taken against two MARA Inc executives for now as their role in the government agency’s purchase of a student housing block called Dudley House in Melbourne, Australia, was still being investigated.

“You are deemed to be innocent until proven guilty,” the prime minister had said.

Australian police, however, reportedly raided a house in Vermont South, Melbourne, Thursday, and seized computers and files in a corruption and money-laundering investigation on the Dudley House deal. They were also believed to target several other properties across Melbourne.

The raid came just two days after Australian paper The Age reported Tuesday that a senior MARA official and two “elite” Malay businessmen were involved in corruption related to the Malaysian government agency’s A$22.5 million (RM65.3 million) purchase of Dudley House in Melbourne.

According to The Age, an eight month-long investigation by Fairfax Media, its parent publishing house, revealed that this group of “super-rich Malaysian officials” had spent government investment funds to push up the price of the student housing block that was built for A$17.8 million, but inflated by A$4.75 million to A$22.5 million.

Pua said today that Malaysia, however, has engaged in finger-pointing instead among top MARA officials over who was ultimately responsible for the 2013 purchase of the Melbourne apartment.

“There was no visible urgency among our law enforcement authorities to uncover the scandal and investigate those who were named and involved in the dodgy transactions at the expense of MARA,” he said.

The opposition lawmaker questioned why Malaysian police was waiting for a “request from Australia” before conducting their own investigations, quoting Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Mortadza Nazarene who said that Bukit Aman was aware of the matter based on media reports, but they could only get involved if Australia requested for assistance.

“While the crime transaction may have taken place in Melbourne, the money is from the Malaysian government and the alleged criminals are all Malaysians residing in the country.

Does that not give sufficient basis for the police to urgently conduct its own investigations by conducting the necessary raids?” Pua said.

He also pointed out that no raids have been conducted either on the companies involved in the controversy surrounding the debt-laden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

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