Chairman claims MRB had no reason to sell land, wants Najib to clarify

Sankara claimed the agency had no compelling reason to sell off one of its most prized assets — 3,300 acres of prime land — to Aset Tanah Nasional Berhad (ATNB). ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Sankara claimed the agency had no compelling reason to sell off one of its most prized assets — 3,300 acres of prime land — to Aset Tanah Nasional Berhad (ATNB). ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — The Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) was not in financial distress when it sold a plot of land at a RM800 million loss through a government special purpose vehicle, its chairman Sankara Nair said today.

Sankara, a former lawyer with close links with Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, claimed the agency had no compelling reason to sell off one of its most prized assets — 3,300 acres of prime land — to Aset Tanah Nasional Berhad (ATNB).

Insisting there was irregularity in the deal, the newly-minted MRB chairman alleged that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had stitched up the deal “in a roundabout and stealthy fashion” to “hive off” the RM800 million through ATNB.

“I know for a fact that during the period of the dubious deal, MRB’s finances were not in any dire financial straits and hence, there were no compelling or constraining reasons for MRB to have made the sale,” Sankara said in a statement.

“More so, to Aset Tanah Nasional Bhd (Aset Tanah), a company (GLC), at such a phenomenal loss.

“So why did MRB enter into this unnecessary and unwarranted sale of its ‘Crown Jewel’ in the first place?”

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok on January 3 alleged that the Najib administration forced the MRB to sell a 1,120ha parcel of land in Kwasa Damansara, Sungai Buloh to ATNB, a special purpose vehicle formed under the Finance Ministry, for RM1.5 billion in 2010.

Just two years later, ATNB sold the same land to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for RM2.3 billion.

Najib has defended the deal, pointing to the current value of the land as proof that no wrongdoing was committed.

Kwasa Land, a company fully-owned by the EPF, developed the land into a township with over 150,000 homes with an estimated value of RM50 billion. The former prime minister said this would ultimately benefit EPF depositors.

Yet, Najib has failed to explain why the land sale had to be done through ATNB and not the EPF, Sankara insisted.

The MRB chairman claimed ATNB, a company whose Memorandum and Articles of Association are wholly commercial, made unwarranted profits from the deal.

“What was his motive to have structured this deal where MRB sells at a loss to ATNB? And why through a middleman?” He asked.

“Why not sell directly to EPF?”

The MRB land deal raises new questions as to whether Najib had acted beyond his powers given there was no mandate to compel all government land sales be done through ATNB, Sankara said.

The MRB chairman suggested that the authorities and the auditor-general act to ascertain this.

“And it also gives rise to public speculation as to whether this was his modus operandi all along in other similar deals and whether he had such powers as then financial minister,” the MRB chairman added.