Why Guan Eng still has some answering to do on Taman Manggis land

Nigel Aw

Modified 6 Apr 2016, 3:19 am

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan has insisted that the controversial Taman Manggis land was resold, contrary to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's stand.

The land is controversial as BN had alleged the Penang government's selling price of RM11.6 million to Kuala Lumpur International Dental Centre Sdn Bhd (KLIDC) was below market and should be worth RM22 million.

BN even linked the land sale to Lim's RM2.8 million purchase of a bungalow on Jalan Pinhorn, which was valued at RM4.27 million, even though Lim was never part of the tender committee which awarded the Taman Manggis land in 2012.

The bungalow aside, the resale of the Taman Manggis land for a quick profit would not look good for the Penang government amid accusations by BN that it was sold below market price.

Lim was right when he pointed out that the allegation had been repeated multiple times by BN without evidence, but the latest disclosure by Rahman does merit explanation.

The allegation

Rahman claimed that the Taman Manggis land was indirectly sold through the sale of KLIDC to another company for RM18.6 million.

The shares of KLIDC were initially majority-owned by Tang Yong Chew but the buyer's name was not disclosed.

He claimed the Victoria International Medical Centre Sdn Bhd – also owned by Tang – which had signed a joint venture with KLIDC to develop the land, was also sold to the same buyer at RM52 million.

The crux of the allegation is the same as before, but this time, Rahman provided details and evidence in the form of two sales and purchase (S&P) agreements which were stamped on Nov 11, 2015.

How did Lim respond?

To Lim's credit, he responded within hours, furnishing a copy of KLIDC's company profile purchased from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) yesterday, which showed that its owners, including Tang, remained the same.

He also stressed that the title of the said land remained the same, showing KLIDC is still the owner.

Why is Lim's explanation problematic?

While the KLDIC's company profile from CCM was indeed purchased yesterday, its information is not up to date as it was based on filings made on Aug 27, 2015.

This would render the document used by Lim as irrelevant as it is based on information before moves were set in motion to sell the company.

Furthermore, as the transfer of the Taman Manggis land is done through the purchase of KLIDC shares, the land title would still list KLIDC as the landowner even though its ultimate owner had changed.

Questions Lim needs to answer?

Based on the S&P agreements disclosed by Rahman, the acquisition of KLIDC is in its early stages.

The S&P agreements showed that the buyer had until March 22 to make full payments for the purchase of the two companies, which is just two weeks ago.

This means the transfer, if it went ahead, would still take more time and the transaction is unlikely to be reflected in the documents of government agencies any time soon.

Obtaining such documents at this stage would only provide old information.

Therefore, the question Lim needs to answer is not whether the Taman Manggis land had been sold through the selling of KLIDC, but whether there is an ongoing process for such a transaction.

Giving Lim the benefit of the doubt

Of course, the S&P agreements do not necessarily mean a done deal.

It can always be aborted midway and nothing is final until the documentations have been submitted to the relevant authorities to confirm the transfer.

Therefore, it cannot be said for sure if KLIDC, which controls the Taman Manggis land, had indeed been sold.

Nonetheless, for a government that advocates competency, accountability and transparency, it would be best for Lim's administration to address these issues and allay any concerns.

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