'RM500m loss in Mindef land swaps only the tip of iceberg'

Modified 22 Feb 2019, 10:50 am

The RM500 million loss suffered by the government through land swaps initiated by the Defence Ministry is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

Patriot president Mohamed Arshad Raji was responding to Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu's revelation that the losses suffered under the previous government involved 16 projects with a land size of 1,186ha, dating back to 1997.

Arshad urged the Defence Ministry to also review the status of more than 40,000ha of its land.

"Patriot believes the 16 land swap cases are only the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned previously, there are more than 40,000ha of military land involved. The Defence Ministry must make a definite statement whether all the land has been privatised as alleged.

"The suspected modus operandi in the land swap would be for the crony company acting as a middleman to undergo revaluation of the prime military land. 

"The difference in the high-value military land and the new low-value acquired land in the remote areas in the land swap deals would ensure huge profits for the cronies," he said.

Arshad also questioned if some of these proceeds were used to cover 1MDB's debt.

According to The Edge Financial Daily, one of the 16 lands was the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base in Kinrara, Puchong.

In the deal, a local tycoon was to be given the land in exchange for constructing a new military base in Paloh, and the RMAF headquarters and new logistics training centre in Sendayan.

Paloh is located in the parliamentary constituency of Sembrong, whose incumbent at the time was then-defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

However, the Kinrara land granted to the tycoon was swapped for RM500 million despite it being valued at RM758 million, representing a 34 percent discount or RM258 million loss for the government.

The report said another dubious land deal was the Defence Ministry's move to swap its base in Rasah for the construction of a new base in Hutan Melintang, which is within the constituency of Bagan Datuk.

The Bagan Datuk incumbent is Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Hishammuddin's immediate predecessor.

Mohamad, who is also Kota Raja MP, had claimed the construction of the new bases were objected by the armed forces, but proceeded anyway to bolster the army vote in the constituency of the two former defence ministers.

Arshad said it was a pity that the armed forces leadership did not put its foot down.

"Patriot had previously raised questions on the illegality of transferring voters to uncompleted military camps, such as Hutan Melintang, Segamat, Paloh and Bera.

"These camps were constructed not based on needs but to help secure votes for the BN politicians.

"It is a pity that top brass of the military then did not have the gumption to put their feet down against their political masters," he said.