For nine days national attention was transfixed by the roiling MARA property corruption scandal which was blown open by the Australian daily, The Age, on June 23, 2015 with its report “Corrupt Malaysia money distorts Melbourne market”, on the outcome of an eight-month Fairfax Media investigation tracing suspicious money flows, court files and corporate records across three continents as part of a global money laundering and bribery scheme turning Australia into an “investment hot spot for the crooked and corrupt”.
The Fairfax Media investigation had zeroed in on MARA Inc’s purchase of the Dudley House property, and found that “greedy local developers and powerful officials overseas” pocketted A$4.75 million (RM13.8 million) in bribes on this single deal.
But this was only the “tip of an iceberg” of the MARA INC property scams in Melbourne, with the Australian Federal Police swinging into action with Operation Carambola after The Age report, raiding houses and seizing computers and files, while the Malaysian authorities continued its Operation Tidak Apa and Business as Usual, with even the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar declaring that there is no element of criminal breach of trust in the MARA property scams in Australia.
Over the next nine days, Malaysians were in turned troubled and shocked by a series of revelations, including:
*Dudley House was only one of four Melbourne properties purchased by MARA Inc where there was gross improprieties involving corruption, money laundering and tax evasion crimes;
*MARA Chairman Annuar Musa, who visited Melbourne in May last year to be briefed about the MARA Inc purchase of the four Melbourne properties, was remiss and negligent in his duties as MARA Chairman in not taking immediate corrective action to stop the hanky-panky in the MARA Inc property purchase corruption scandal;
*The elaborate structure using offshore companies to purchase the MARA Inc properties in Melbourne, with at least eight different companies used for the purchase of the four Melbourne properties so as to be as opaque as possible instead of being open, transparent and accountable in the expenditure of public funds – which Annuar should have known after the Melbourne visit in May last year although he feigned ignorance when The Age expose blew up on June 23;
*Violation of the MARA Vision for MARA to be a be “an outstanding organisation of trust, upholding the nation’s pride” and betrayal of the hopes and trust of bumiputeras;
*Another example of the failure, ineffectiveness and impotence of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in it statutory mission to combat corruption.
The MARA Melbourne property corruption scandal was reaching crescendo, with almost daily revelations by the NGO, National Oversight & Whistleblowers (NOW) that MARA’s Dudley House buy was not the only scam but that the other three Melbourne properties bought by MARA Inc were probably even bigger scams, with the 333 Exhibition Street bought for A$31 million (RM99.2 million) involving a price mark-up of A$9 million (RM33 million); 51 Queen Street bought for A$22 million (RM70.4 million) with a mark-up of A$5.35 million (RM18 million) and 745, Swanston Street for A$41.8 million (RM138.6 million) with a mark-up of A$18.3 million (RM62.9 million).
This means that we are looking not only at a MARA Inc property corruption scandal of Dudley House apartment block in Melbourne in the region of RM13.8 million but more than RM100 million quadruplet corruption of four Melbourne properties or even more, when the multi-layered and incestuous structure of offshore companies used to buy the Melbourne properties are finally dismantled.
It is for this reason that the suspension on Thursday of the two MARA INC top officials, Datuk Mohammad Lan Allani (MARA INC chairman) and Abdul Halim Abdul Rahim (MARA INC CEO), though right and proper but which should have been done in May last year after Annuar visited Melbourne, is grossly inadequate.
More heads in MARA, including that of Annuar Musa, should roll as the MARA INC property corruption scandal probably cost MARA over RM100 million or more than ten times the total sum and magnitude as initially exposed by The Age.
It is unfortunate after nine days commanding national attention about the unfolding MARA property corruption in Melbourne, with Annuar announcing not only the immediate suspension of MARA Chairman and MARA CEO bur clearly expressing disagreement with the Police in concluding that there was no criminal breach of trust involved, the whole MARA property scams in Australia was completely overshadowed by a bigger expose – the Wall Street Journal report yesterday on the latest development in the 1MDB scandal that Malaysian investigators have traced nearly US$700 million of deposits into what they believe are personal bank accounts of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Reports of RM2.6 billion in the Prime Minister’s private bank account just before the 13th General Elections is a definitely a bigger story than the RM100 million MARA property corruption scandal in Melbourne – with the latter completely dwarfed by the former not only in terms of the quantum of monies involved, but the magnitude of the political implications and consequences.
However, this must not mean that the enormity of the corruption, moral turpitude and political chicanery in the RM100 million MARA property corruption scandal should be ignored because it pales in insignificance as compared to the allegations of RM2.6 billion in the Prime Minister’s private bank account as the latest chapter in the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal.
Just like the 1MDB scandal, Malaysians are entitled to demand that full attention are given by all the relevant authorities to bring to book the culprits responsible for the MARA property corruption scandal, and that the handful who pocketted some RM100 million in the four MARA Melbourne purchases should be made to cough out the full amount back to public coffers, whether MARA or the public treasury.