Your KiniGuide to controversy over Taman Manggis land sale


Modified 6 Aug 2016, 12:39 pm

KINIGUIDE After much ado, BN Strategic Communications Director Abdul Rahman Dahlan has finally delivered his promise to unveil documents showing that the Taman Manggis land had swapped hands.

What is the document about? What does it mean for the land and the Penang government? What about its Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng?

In this instalment of KiniGuide, we will explore these issues. But first, let's take a step back and revisit the Taman Manggis land.

The 'Mangosteen Garden'

The 0.4-hectare plot is located along Burma Road in Georgetown.

It was sold via open tender for RM11.6 million to Kuala Lumpur International Dental Centre Sdn Bhd (KLIDC) in 2012.

Prior to the sale, Lim had offered Gerakan to purchase the land for RM22 million, after the BN member party claimed that the land was worth double the price.

However, Gerakan failed to come up with the money to complete the transaction.

The Penang Island Dental College is slated to take up residence on the site, which will include a 200-chair dental hospital, resource centre, hostel and recreational facilities.

To date however, the site remains undeveloped.

The allegation

BN politicians, particularly Abdul Rahman, has been alleging that the Taman Manggis land was sold below market price.

He claimed that he land is earmarked for low-cost housing but has become a tool for a private company to make a quick buck by buying it at a low price and then reselling it without developing the land. The projected profit is claimed to be RM59 million.

Abdul Rahman has since changed tack after the state government revealed that the original plan to build public housing in Taman Manggis had been scrapped in favour of building government quarters and a mixed development instead.

Nevertheless, the crux of Abdul Rahman's arguments remain the same. He insisted that government quarters are housing for the poor as well.

What did the documents show?

Based on the two documents , all of KLIDC shares would be sold to an undisclosed company based in Aman Suria, Petaling Jaya, for RM18.6 million.

In addition, all of Victoria International Medical Centre Sdn Bhd's (VMC) shares would be sold to the Aman Suria company as well, for RM52 million.

The document describes VMC as a dormant company in a joint venture with KLIDC to develop the Taman Manggis land.

This means the buyer would take possession of the Taman Manggis land and the Penang Island Dental College project.

Both documents are dated Nov 11 last year, and the last of the payments are due on March 22, 2016.

The sellers are the shareholders of KLIDC - which is majority owned by one Tang Yong Chew - and Tang Renewable Energy Engineering Sdn Bhd (TREE), which wholly owns VMC.

Tang Renewable Energy Engineering is also supposedly owned by Tang.

The documents also contain signatures of the buyer, sellers, and the lawyers who witnessed the signing. There are also markings indicating that the stamp duty for the agreement has been paid.

Wait, what? An undisclosed buyer? What gives?

According to Abdul Rahman, he has redacted information that would identify the buyer in order “to be fair” to them, unlike the original shareholders of the project whose names have already been made public.

Some pages of the documents were not provided to the press, and there is no explanation on this. The documents were only distributed at the conclusion of Abdul Rahman's press conference.

Only four out of 16 pages of each of the two documents were distributed to the press – enough to establish that there is a deal to buy and sell the shares and the terms of the payment, but not much else.

However, Abdul Rahman had said that unredacted copies of the agreements would be provided to the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

So is it true? Why not just cut the nonsense and check the public documents?

Since the transfer of the Taman Manggis land is purported to take place through the sale of the companies that own the land, checking with the district land office would be futile. It would still show that KLIDC owns the land, but would have no information on who are the people behind it.

It is possible to check who are KLIDC's and VMC's shareholders by purchasing company profiles from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM).

However, KLIDC's profile on CCM's database is only updated based on filings made on Aug 27, 2015, while VMC's profile is updated based on filings made on Oct 5, 2015.

Both these dates are before the S&P agreements were signed, hence rendering the CCM's profiles irrelevant in determining whether the share transfer has taken place.

Moreover, the last payment for the sale is supposed to have taken place on or before March 22, which it a mere two weeks ago.

Assuming that the agreement does not become a stillborn, it would still take some time for the transfer of shares to take place and become reflected in CCM's database.

Alright. But why does this matter?

The state has an obligation to ensure that the land and the projects it awards in used for its intended purpose, and the selling of a plot of undeveloped land for a RM58 million profit does not reflect well on the state government.

Indeed, both Abdul Rahman and Lim have indicated that the state government must be informed of such a transfer of ownership, and the state's permission is required for the deal to proceed.

However, Lim appears to be in the dark over the S&P agreement and the identity of the buyer.

So... what happens now?

Lim has pledged to take action on the sale of KLIDC and VMC if found to be true, subject to advice from the state legal advisor.

The MACC are already investigating allegations that Lim has received kickbacks over the Taman Manggis land sale, but would likely look into the matter as well after receiving copies of the S&P agreement.

Malaysiakini has attempted to contact Tang through the lawyer who witnessed the signing on his behalf, but have yet to receive a response.

The stage for a debate between Lim and Abdul Rahman on the issue is also being set, so stay tuned for more fireworks between the duo while they iron out the details.

Lim has also expressed willingness to confront Abdul Rahman in a public debate, but Abdul Rahman has yet to respond.

What was that row about the bungalow last time?

The bungalow along Jalan Pinhorn, Penang, was purchased by Lim last year for RM2.8 million, or RM275.56 per square feet.

Umno blogs have compared the purchase to a another on Jalan Pinhorn, which was sold for RM3.6 million or RM 722.36psf in 2014, to claim Lim's purchase was way below market.

This was alleged to be kickback for the Taman Manggis land sale, but Lim countered the sale was conducted via open tender and he does not sit on the tender committee.

The bungalow's previous owner Phang Li Koon is Tang's business partner in the company Windbond Management & Consultant Sdn Bhd.

However, she stressed that she had no interest in the government and no part in the management of KLIDC.

See more in our previous KiniGuide on the Jalan Pinhorn bungalow.

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