NEWS

Mara Inc's No 1 named in property scam

Published
Modified 3 Sep 2020, 11:28 pm

Former Umno assemblyperson turned Mara Inc chairperson Mohammad Lan Allani, its chief executive Halim Rahman and two businessmen have been named in the Mara's multi-million property scam in Melbourne.

In an exclusive report yesterday, Australia daily The Age revealed how A$4.75 million (RM13.7 million) in kickbacks were taken out of a A$22.5 million (RM65 million) property deal in 2013 and then channelled back to Malaysia.

An eight-month investigation by The Age was triggered after an unusually expensive property deal that stunned the market and tongues wagging.

The probe was also conducted following growing concern on foreign funds flowing into the overheated property market and fears that Australia was becoming a money-laundering hub.

The investigation traced suspicious money flows, court documents and corporate records across Australia, Malaysia and Singapore to uncover why the property at the centre of the scam, Melbourne's Dudley International House, was so expensive.

The investigation managed to link the deal with to Malaysian government officials who allegedly intentionally paid 20 percent over the asking price, said The Age report.

The report showed the circuitous path of the extra money (RM13.7 million)  paid by the Dudley House developers for non-existent services including 'professional advice' and 'consultancy and advisory fees'.

Four Malaysians were named following the investigation.

Received no money

The Mara Inc chairperson was the former Sulabayan state assemblyperson and ex-treasurer of Semporna Umno division.

The Age said it contacted Mohammad Lan (photo ) who pledged unable to recollect the deal despite having visited Melbourne to inspect the property in May last year.

The former assemblyperson admitted he was involved in setting up offshore companies in tax havens as a 'convenient' way of selling property bought by the Malaysian government.

The former politician, however, hung up the phone when asked about the alleged kickback, said The Age .

Malaysian businesspersons Yusof Gani and Ahmad Azizi were described as the 'mysterious' and low-profile developers in the joint venture project of Dudley House development.

Their Aussie counterparts were developers Chris Dimitriou and Peter Mills.

The Dudley House deal would have almost certainly remained a secret without Melbourne tradesman John Bond, who assisted outfit of the student hostel but received no money from the developers.

"We knew they (Yusof and Ahmad) were influencing things behind the scenes, but I never met them. All I know is that they are powerful back in Malaysia," says Bond as quoted in the report.

According to confidential documents, The Age said it was Ahmad Azizi's Porsche-loving son Erwan who facilitated this deal via a network of contacts connected to Mara.

The documents have shown that the developers initially wanted to sell the property for A$17.8 million (RM51.5 million).

Singapore cake shop

The Age  reported after Erwan helped introduce certain top Malaysian officials to the deal, the sale price was suddenly increased by A$4.75 million.

An Australian manager has told a civil court proceeding lodged on behalf of a Dudley House creditor that: "If we didn't agree on the A$4.75 million, we would not have the deal".

This was revealed in court after Bond and several creditors went to Victorian Supreme Court to demand a new liquidator to be appointed to the project. Bond has testified that the kickback was a bribe.

Corporate records also revealed that the firms behind these sham invoices were closely linked to a top Mara official.

When quizzed directly about these apparent kickbacks in court, Dudley developer Chris Dimitriou stated: "To the best of my knowledge, that A$4.8 million went to Malaysian parties."  

The Age also reported that the liquidator also found a strange e-mail dated March 8, 2013 sent by a man purportedly working for Malaysian government officials.

It stated that in return for Mara buying Dudley House, a payment of '… A$4,785,000 in the form of introduction and consultancy fees' would have to be wired to a mysterious Singapore shelf company.

The Age managed to track down the director of the company to a cake shop in Singapore where a young businesswoman said she agreed to help three men - who wanted to open an offshore company and a bank account - in return for A$1,000 (RM2,895).

Despite being unsure about the identity of the Malaysians who paid her, she said she knew they were linked to Malaysian government agency.

Following the expose, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak (photo ) has ordered a probe into the allegations. Malaysiakini has also contacted Mara chairperson for his comments.

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