FELDA WHITE PAPER reveals SHADY DEALS


 

These penyangak-penyangak left their marks … we are left to clean up. – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Settlers were facing hardship, yet new cars were bought. – Datuk Seri Anwar IbrahimThese actions were not only irresponsible but criminal in nature. – Datuk Seri Azmin AliFelda only incurred losses after Pakatan took over the government. – Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan
 

The chairman held positions in as many as 39 Felda subsidiaries. Even more shocking is that billions were used to ‘buy’ political support and a stake in an Indonesian firm was acquired for 344% more than it actually costs. And the agency’s debts rose by 1,100% in 10 years

Video:

 ‘Irresponsible and criminal’

 

KUALA LUMPUR: The Felda White Paper was tabled in Parliament, during which the government accused the previous administration of, among others, shady transactions and conflict of interest.

The Dewan Rakyat was told that some RM2.7bil of Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) money was used to buy political support before the last general election in May 2018.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, in tabling the White Paper on Felda in Parliament yesterday, said it was “corporate malfeasance” that led to Felda suffering massive losses.

He also alleged that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was implicated in “shady deals”.

“(Najib), who was known as MO1 and who was the finance minister at the time, was involved in the investment process. These actions were not only irresponsible but criminal in nature,” he claimed.

Azmin cited the purchase of Indonesian company PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk from PT Rajawali Capital at a higher market rate as an example of the abuse of Felda funds.

He added that as of March this year, the RM2.3bil investment was only worth RM500mil.

On Tuesday, Felda director-general Datuk Dr Othman Omar lodged a police report claiming that Najib had pushed it into investing US$505mil (RM2.07bil) in Eagle High.

In the report, he said the amount paid to acquire a 37% stake in the Indonesian company was 344% more than its actual value of US$114mil (RM466.9mil).

Eagle High is part of the Rajawali Group owned by Peter Sondakh, who Othman claimed was close to Najib.

In black and white: Azmin with (from left) Felda chairman Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd Nor, his deputy Senator Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin and Othman showing the Felda White Paper at Parliament.

Azmin added that Felda’s debts had drastically risen by 1,100% from RM1.2bil in 2007 to RM14.4bil by 2017.

He also said there was a conflict of interest by former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad – referred to as FO1 – by holding positions in 39 other subsidiaries under Felda and Felda Global Ventures (FGV).

Isa, who was appointed as Felda chairman from January 2011 until January 2017, was FGV chairman as well as FIC chairman.

Later, wrapping up his reply to debate on the White Paper, Azmin said the government would adopt a new model in managing land under Felda which had been leased to FGV.

In his winding-up speech, Azmin acknowledged that it was difficult to return the land to settlers as Felda had leased it to FGV under a 99-year agreement.

“However, Felda is in the midst of reviewing the terms of the agreement with FGV so that it would benefit all parties, particularly settlers and Felda, although the land does not belong to them,” he said.

He added the White Paper on Felda would seek a new model to manage Felda land to ensure more profitable economic scale of return.

On claims by opposition lawmakers that Felda had made a loss after Pakatan took over, Azmin clarified that Felda’s true net value was only revealed after an impairment exercise was carried out on its assets.

He said the former Felda management had failed to carry out an impairment exercise to value its investment and kept quiet about it until 2018.

“They did not do the impairment exercise so the books would look good. If the management was honest, they would have carried out an impairment exercise between 2013 and 2016 to determine best value of the investment,” said Azmin.

He said when land was managed by Felda itself, it managed to obtain nett profit of RM1bil to RM2bil.

By Jagdev singh sidhu, martin carvalho, hemananthani sivanandam, rahimy rahim, and tarrence tan The Star

Planting seeds to a new Felda

 New beginnings: The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation with better internal controls.

New beginnings: The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation with better internal controls.

THE scale of malfeasance was staggering. The White Paper on the goings-on in Felda and its subsidiaries read like a litany of wrongdoings that breached proper governance standards that most companies have to prescribe to.

There were many reasons why the checks and balances within Felda failed, largely because there was none. The concentration of authority within the hands of a few individuals, with little exercise of fiduciary duty by other members of the board, meant a free hand for the few.

The forensic audit conducted by Ernst & Young detailed the collapse of internal controls and oversight in a number of deals done by Felda. Overpriced deals were made and in the end, it was the settlers that bore the brunt of the consequences.

Charges have been filed against former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, and given the scale of alleged fraud that had taken place, more police reports are about to be lodged in the days and weeks ahead. And more people are expected to face charges.

All of that will mean that justice to what had happened at Felda will be sought. That process will take time, but in the meantime, the main thrust of the White Paper, apart from detailing the cocktail of crimes, was what to do with Felda next.

The key take-away from the report was that there will be a new Felda. The old one, with its own legacy problems, meant that it will be best to start over again with a new focus.

The financial performance of Felda warrants the change as it has been losing money since its unit FGV Holdings Bhd was floated on Bursa Malaysia and its debt ballooned from RM1.2bil in 2007 to RM14.4bil in 2017. And its assets just about doubled. From those numbers alone, it was imperative that financial assistance from the government be extended to rehabi­litate Felda.

The government will inject RM6.23bil into Felda in stages in the form of grants, loans and guarantees and much of that money will actually go towards reworking Felda.

The agency’s debt will be taken care of and so will the settlers’ loans. Housing for second-generation Felda settlers will be built and RM480mil will be given to help pay for their living cost.

In changing Felda from what it is now to what it should morph into, the government will inject RM1bil for the settlers to plant new cash crops.

Relying on palm oil and rubber alone has been good, and the settlers and Felda benefited from that. But in today’s world, other cash crops have gained prominence over the golden crop of Malaysia.

With the price of food, which includes fruits and vegetables, along with livestock, having increasing value, the shift towards these crops is understandable and inevitable.

Settlers will be able to get more income from cultivating such crops and rearing livestock to go along with the lease agreement they can get by agreeing to allot their rights to their oil palm estates to Felda for a steady monthly return.

Felda can then use the economies of scale from the amalgamated lands and better productivity to generate higher returns. The use of modern technology in farming Felda land is also in the right direction.

The other steps put forward by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali is to have better infrastructure in the areas within the scheme, improve development of human capital and a host of other measures that seek to revitalise the prospects of the settlers and their next generation.

The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation. Governance, transparency and all the other buzzwords that mean better internal controls and eliminating corruption needed to be done.

Having professionals run Felda is the correct move and with all of this, it is hoped that Felda will shed its sordid past and return the agency to what the settlers and their kin have sacrificed for.

The overarching intention of the revamped Felda is to make sure that only the welfare of the settlers and the agency are taken care of.

It is also a political move to ensure that a key vote bank that helped swing the tide of the last general election remains intact. But beyond the politics, the revamp of Felda is a much-needed move that will only serve to benefit those involved in the scheme and the country.

It is the right thing to do.THE scale of malfeasance was staggering. The White Paper on the goings-on in Felda and its subsidiaries read like a litany of wrongdoings that breached proper governance standards that most companies have to prescribe to.

There were many reasons why the checks and balances within Felda failed, largely because there was none. The concentration of authority within the hands of a few individuals, with little exercise of fiduciary duty by other members of the board, meant a free hand for the few.

The forensic audit conducted by Ernst & Young detailed the collapse of internal controls and oversight in a number of deals done by Felda. Overpriced deals were made and in the end, it was the settlers that bore the brunt of the consequences.

Charges have been filed against former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, and given the scale of alleged fraud that had taken place, more police reports are about to be lodged in the days and weeks ahead. And more people are expected to face charges.

All of that will mean that justice to what had happened at Felda will be sought. That process will take time, but in the meantime, the main thrust of the White Paper, apart from detailing the cocktail of crimes, was what to do with Felda next.

The key take-away from the report was that there will be a new Felda. The old one, with its own legacy problems, meant that it will be best to start over again with a new focus. The financial performance of Felda warrants the change as it has been losing money since its unit FGV Holdings Bhd was floated on Bursa Malaysia and its debt ballooned from RM1.2bil in 2007 to RM14.4bil in 2017. And its assets just about doubled. From those numbers alone, it was imperative that financial assistance from the government be extended to rehabilitate Felda.

The government will inject RM6.23bil into Felda in stages in the form of grants, loans and guarantees and much of that money will actually go towards reworking Felda.

The agency’s debt will be taken care of and so will the settlers’ loans. Housing for second-generation Felda settlers will be built and RM480mil will be given to help pay for their living cost.

In changing Felda from what it is now to what it should morph into, the government will inject RM1bil for the settlers to plant new cash crops.

Relying on palm oil and rubber alone has been good and the settlers and Felda benefited from that. But in today’s world, other cash crops have gained prominence than the golden crop of Malaysia.

With the price of food, which includes fruits and vegetables, along with livestock, having increasing value, the shift towards these crops is understandable and inevitable.

Settlers will be able to get more income from cultivating such crops and rearing livestock to go along with the lease agreement they can get by agreeing to allot their rights to their oil palm estates to Felda for a steady monthly return. Felda can then use the economies of scale from the amalgamated lands and better productivity to generate higher returns. The use of modern technology in farming Felda’s land is also in the right direction.

The other steps put forward by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali is to have better infrastructure in the areas within the scheme, improve development of human capital and a host of other measures that seek to revitalise the prospects of the settlers and their next generation.

The new Felda aims to be run as a well-functioning corporation. Governance, transparency and all the other buzzwords that mean better internal controls and eliminating corruption needed to be done. Having professionals run Felda is the correct move and with all of this, it is hoped that Felda will shed its sordid past and return the agency to what the settlers and their kin have sacrificed for.

The overarching intention of the revamped Felda is to make sure that only the welfare of the settlers and the agency are taken care of. It is also a political move to ensure that a key vote bank that helped swing the tide of the last general election remains intact. But beyond the politics, the revamp of Felda is a much-needed move that will only serve to benefit those involved in the scheme and the country.

It is the right thing to do.

By jagdev singh sidhu The Star

 

 

 

 

Taking Felda forward the smart way – Nation 

 

 


Police may summon VIPs for Felda probe

 

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Let me be clear, I am innocent: Jho Low


https://youtu.be/AngdNA3mtgw

Having his say: A screengrap of www.jho-low.com website which contained the letter

Rogue businessman insists he is not guilty via letter on personal website

 

PETALING JAYA – Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho has proclaimed his innocence over allegations related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in a signed letter uploaded to his personal website.

Low, also known as Jho Low, admitted that in hindsight, he might have done things differently.

“But any mistakes I made do not amount to the sweepingly broad and destructive allegations being made against me.

“Let me be clear: I am innocent,” Low wrote.

The website, www.jho-low.com, also contains legal documents related to the 1MDB case, news media articles on him and 1MDB as well as statements by Low’s lawyers.

A notice on the website said that jho-low.com was created on behalf of Low through his legal counsel to provide information to the public.

A search on the Internet archive shows that the website has been updated since 2015 but until recently only contained general information on Low.

According to the WHOIS database, jho-low.com was created on June 2, 2014.

Yesterday, the link to the website was shared extensively on social media, after the undated letter was posted.

“I only ask that everyone – courts, prosecutors, and the general public – keep an open mind until all of the evidence comes to light,” Low wrote in the letter.

The financier wrote that for the past several years, he had been subjected to a series of allegations around the globe in relation to the operations of 1MDB.

He said many of the allegations had originated from blog posts, “improper” leaks from governmental agencies around the world, or unproven allegations filed in court, where he had never been afforded an opportunity to set the record straight.

“I have been paraded in effigy through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, and photographs from my younger days plastered in tabloids across the globe.

“It has become clear that there is no platform where objective information can be presented regarding this issue – and no jurisdiction that hasn’t been poisoned by gossip, innuendo, and unproven allegations.

“This website is an effort to change that,” Low wrote.

The 36-year-old Penangite is described as a “global philanthropist, investor and entrepreneur” on the website.

A check with an official from a public affairs firm representing Low confirmed the veracity of the website.

Meanwhile, Swiss whistleblower Xavier Justo, in an immediate response, said: “The Jho Low website does not show any proof of his innocence.

“It is just a bunch of legal documents showing that he wants a few cases to be dismissed.

“It’s the way the justice system works, you can be as guilty as guilty is and ask for a case to be dismissed. It’s not proof of innocence,” he told The Star.

The former PetroSaudi Inter­national executive said he was appalled at Low’s attempts to defend himself through the website.

“Any decent person will face justice (in court) if he can prove that he is innocent,” he said.

He added that he was amazed at Low’s attempts to try to “stop the distribution of books, abuse the justice system and hire public relations officers to defend his reputation while also creating a website to tell fairy tales”.

Low’s current whereabouts are unknown; he has been speculated to be hiding in China or the Caribbean.

He and his father, Tan Sri Low Hock Peng, were charged in absentia in Malaysia last month over money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

Last week, Low, through the London-based law firm Schillings, sought to ban the books, The Sarawak Report by Clare Rewcastle Brown and Billion Dollar Whale by The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, from going on sale.

Credit: Razak Ahmad The Star/Asia News Network

Read also

 

The Damocles index by Nomura warns of fiscal tension in Malaysia, score accross coountries, the hits and misses 1996~20118


PETALING JAYA: Allowing a larger fiscal deficit and running the risk of a sovereign credit rating downgrade in 2019 could cause balance of payments stress, given Malaysia’s high short-term external debts and low foreign exchange (forex) reserves, said Nomura.

Following the reversal of fiscal reforms like goods and services tax (GST) and the removal of fuel subsidies, the new government now faces the tough choice of either cutting spending at the cost of growth, or allowing a larger fiscal deficit and the risk of a sovereign credit rating downgrade in 2019.

According to a Nomura global research report, Malaysia’s Damocles score in July 2018 was 86.9, below the 100 threshold.

The Damocles index by Nomura summarises macroeconomic and financial variables into a single measure to assess an economy’s vulnerability to a currency crisis.

The oil price slump of 2014 to 2016 was a major shock for Malaysia, one of the few net-oil and gas exporters in Asia.

“While Bank Negara initially expanded forex reserves to defend the ringgit, it eventually allowed a sharp depreciation in 2015 which boosted export competitiveness.

“Malaysia has proved resilient and its current account remained in surplus, benefiting from a diversified economy and fiscal reforms,” said Nomura.

Three countries in the region, namely, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, have a Damocles score of zero, while Vietnam has a moderate Damocles score of 35.

The Bank of Thailand is signalling policy normalisation to build policy space and reduce financial stability risks following a prolonged period of exceptionally low interest rates. This is as headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation returned to within the 1% to 4% inflation target and economy growing at potential.

Thailand’s current account surplus as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has been sizeable since 2015, driven by weak domestic demand and, more recently, growing tourism revenues as well as an export recovery.

“Over this period, forex reserves rose sharply, and they are now at very favourable adequacy levels relative to both imports and short-term external debts.

“The fiscal deficit is expected to widen slightly in 2018, as the government increases spending to support populist policies targeting low-income earners, in the run-up to the election in early 2019,” said Nomura, adding that real interest rates are falling gradually and remain marginally positive, as inflationary pressures have been stubbornly weak.

Over in Indonesia, a negative terms-of-trade shock in 2014 raised the Damocles score in 2014 to 2016, but it has fallen back to zero due to Bank Indonesia’s build-up of forex reserve buffers and government reforms that improved foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.

While depreciation pressures have risen again in 2018, BI has acted decisively with 125 basis points in policy rate hikes to date.

“We expect another 25 basis points, with the risk of more.

“Bank Indonesia maintains a flexible forex regime and a dual-intervention framework in forex and bond markets, as well as introduced macro-prudential measures, like requiring residents to hedge external exposure,” said Nomura.

The research house added that Bank Indonesia has also strengthened policy coordination with the Finance Ministry, which is implementing policies to reduce the current account deficit, while prioritising a credible 2019 budget despite upcoming presidential elections.

Sword of Damocles hangs over Sri Lanka

PETALING JAYA: Sri Lanka is at risk of an exchange rate crisis mainly due to its still-weak fiscal finances and a fragile external position.

Sri Lanka charted the highest Damocles score of 175, among 30 emerging market (EM) economies.

The Damocles index by Nomura summarises macroeconomic and financial variables into a single measure to assess an economy’s vulnerability to a currency crisis.

A score above 100 suggests a country is vulnerable to an exchange rate crisis in the next 12 months, while a reading above 150 signals that a crisis could erupt at any time.

Sri Lanka has large refinancing needs, with foreign exchange (forex) reserves of less than five months of import cover and high short-term external debt of US$ 7.5bil.

“Political stability also remains an issue, as recent resignations have weakened the government (its term ends mid-2020) and despite retaining a simple majority, complicates the task of continuing to implement International Monetary Fund (IMF)-induced reforms.

“However, without IMF support, the risk of a currency crisis would be higher,” said Nomura in its global research report.

Meanwhile, South Africa, Argentina, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine are currently vulnerable to an exchange rate crisis, having Damocles scores of more than 100.

“Based on our definition, Argentina and Turkey are experiencing currency crises, while Argentina, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Ukraine have turned to the IMF for assistance, leaving Pakistan and South Africa as the standouts.

“As investors focus more on risk, it is important not to lump all EMs together as one homogeneous group; Damocles highlights a long list of countries with very low risk of currency crises,” said Nomura.

Eight countries, namely, Brazil, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Peru, Philippines, Russia and Thailand, have Damocles scores of zero.

It is notable that China’s Damocles index has maintained since dropping to 36.9 in late 2017 from 62.4 in October 2017.

The index far below the 100 threshold suggests that the risk of an exchange rate crisis in China is limited.

Nomura concurred that China’s balance of payment position remains healthy, given it has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves at US$3.1 trillion, as of July 2018.

“However, we highlight that its pockets are not as deep as they once were, given that current account deficits at minus 0.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first half of 2018 may occur more frequently, net direct investment inflows may moderate further, and external debt has risen significantly.

“Moreover, we see domestic challenges from weakening aggregate demand and other fundamental problems, and external risks from the escalation in China-US trade tensions and trade protectionism,” said Nomura.

As for India, its Damocles score has fallen to 25 in the third quarter of 2018, from 56 during 2012 to 2013.

India’s most recent currency crisis occurred in 2013 and was due to weak domestic macro fundamentals and worsening external funding conditions. Since then, consumer price index (CPI) inflation has moderated to about 4.5% in 2018 from 9.7% in 2012, as has the current account deficit at an estimated -2.5% of GDP, compared to minus 5% in 2012. Furthermore, India’s central bank has a sufficient forex reserve buffer of 9.3 months of import cover versus 6.4 in 2012.

“However, given India runs a current account deficit, it remains vulnerable to bouts of global risk aversion. Higher oil prices and portfolio outflows are its key external vulnerabilities.

“Aside from these, the key risks stem from the government turning more populist ahead of the 2019 general elections (worsening domestic fundamentals) and a sharper-than-expected domestic growth slowdown (triggering equity outflows),” said Nomura.

The Damocles index comprises eight indicators that are found to be the best predictors of exchange rate crises in the 30-country sample, in which there have been 54 crises since 1996. It includes five single indicators which are import cover, short-term external debt or exports, forex reserves or short-term external debt, broad money or forex reserves and real short-term interest rate.

On the other hand, the three joint indicators are non-foreign direct investment (FDI) gross inflows of one-year and three-year, fiscal and current account, as well as current account and real effective exchange rate deviation. To date, Damocles has correctly signalled 67% of the past 54 crises in Nomura’s sample, including the Asian financial crisis (1997 to 1998), Russian financial crisis (1998) and the 2018 EM currency crises in Argentina and Turkey.

“The advantage of Damocles lies in its objective nature in letting the data speak, not clouded by conventional misperceptions or biases based on past experiences. While the results achieved are encouraging, but given the inherent limitations of any early warning system, it would be foolish to make any exaggerated claims.

“For instance, Brazil’s Damocles score of zero implies very low external vulnerability; yet the Brazilian real (BRL) has depreciated more than 10% in August alone due to an uncertain presidential election outlook,” said Nomura. – The Star

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Najib is guilty of incompetence, he says: board to be blamed for 1MDB debacle, not me, I don’t know !


Dr M: Najib always assumes people are stupid 

‘Najib assumes M’sians are stupid’

Every bit of money that was borrowed by 1MDB had Najib’s signature, says PM

It is impossible for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak not to know of transactions related to 1MDB when his signature was on the documents, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Prime Minister said he could not believe his predecessor’s claim that he knew nothing about money from the state fund ending up in his personal account.

“Who wants to believe him (that he didn’t know), when he signed (his name)?

“Every bit of money that goes in and out of the first borrowing of RM42bil, all (had) his signature,” said Dr Mahathir.

The amount refers to the total debt accumulated by 1MDB, a fund which was, in fact, founded by Najib in 2009.

“If he doesn’t know, it must be that he doesn’t understand what a signature means,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying in an interview with the Malay Mail yesterday.

Dr Mahathir described as “ludicrous” for someone to direct RM2bil to be transferred into his account, while refusing to be informed of the transaction.

“This cannot be. Because I have to sign to use the money.

“To use the money, I have to issue cheques. Najib always assumes that people are stupid,” Dr Mahathir added.

It was previously reported that about US$700mil (RM2bil) was allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB into Najib’s personal account.

In a Reuters report on Wednesday, Najib blamed his advisers and the 1MDB board for keeping the alleged embezzlement information from him.

He said he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings, gems and prime real estate.

To this, Dr Mahathir said the Government had all the information on Najib’s alleged involvement in moving the 1MDB money, and that it knew how much money had gone into Najib’s account.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister disclosed that the authorities had “an almost perfect case” against Najib for embezzlement, misappropriation of funds and bribery.

1MDB had fallen RM42bil in debt since its inception in 2009, and Dr Mahathir had been at the forefront raising questions on it over the past three years. -The Star

Najib: If I was informed about the troubles the fund was in, I would have acted

He does, though, have explanations for the vast sums of cash, luxury handbags and jewellery recently seized from his homes by the Malaysian authorities.

Speaking to Reuters in his first sit-down interview since his shock May 9 election defeat, Najib said his advisors and the management and board of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), had wrongly kept the alleged embezzlement of funds a secret from him.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Reuters on Tuesday that the authorities have “an almost perfect case” against Najib on charges of embezzlement, misappropriation and bribery linked to 1MDB.

Najib, in some of his most extensive comments yet on the 1MDB scandal, said he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings, gems and prime real estate.

“I’m not party to the yacht, the paintings…I’ve never seen those paintings whatsoever,” said Najib.

“I was not aware of these purchases. This was done without my knowledge. I would never authorise 1MDB funds to be used for any of these items. I’ve been in government so long, I know what’s right and what’s wrong,” Najib said in the interview held at a luxurious sea-facing private villa in a five-star hotel on Pulau Langkawi.

He blamed 1MDB’s board, saying it was incumbent upon them to tell him if something was wrong.

Relaxing in a black T-shirt and brown pants, Najib said he was enjoying golf, food, and time with his family.

The family booked the villa to celebrate Hari Raya holidays together. Najib’s children, including stepson Riza Aziz, a Hollywood film producer, were with him for the week, his aides told Reuters.

Malaysian investigators looking into 1MDB say they believe that Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor have amassed vast amounts of wealth and property using funds from the state fund.

Rosmah briefly appeared at the interview but Najib said she would not take questions.

Nearly 300 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery were among the items taken away by police in raids at properties linked to Najib’s family.

Items included Birkin handbags from the luxury goods maker Hermes, each worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Najib said the public seizure of handbags and other luxury items created a negative perception but most were gifts given to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1MDB.

“Yes these were gifts, particularly with my daughter’s they were tagged, they were actually labelled: when, by whom,” adding that a lot of them were wedding presents.

Najib said his son-in-law Daniyar Nazarbayev, the nephew of Kazakstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev, also gifted many of the handbags to Rosmah.

“People might find it hard to understand, but my son-in-law for example, he gets Birkin from his source, five or six at one go,” he said.

“His family has got some means, so it has nothing to do with 1MDB if it comes from Kazakhstan.”

US prosecutors have alleged that more than US$4.5bil (RM18.02bil) of 1MDB funds were laundered through a complex web of transactions and shell companies. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed several lawsuits to claim about US$1.7bil (RM6.8bil) in assets believed to have been stolen from 1MDB.

Some of the assets sought include a Picasso painting, luxury real estate in South California and New York, shares in a Hollywood production company and a US$265mil (RM1.06bil) yacht, and more than US$200mil (RM800.9mil) worth of jewellery – including a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace.

Najib said this jewellery set was also meant to be a gift for his wife but she never received it.

“And until today we do not know…she says the item is not in her possession,” Najib said.

In the interview, Najib for the first time also spoke at length about Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian financier better known as Jho Low.

US and Malaysian investigators have named Low as a key figure who benefited from 1MDB funds.

Najib said he felt that Low’s connections in the Middle East, particularly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, could be helpful in pulling in more investment to Malaysia from those places.

But he said he had never instructed Low to get involved in 1MDB, and had no control over what he did.

“I didn’t give him instructions, but he volunteered to do certain things, which he thought would help 1MDB. But whatever he did ultimately is the responsibility of the management and board.”

Malaysia is seeking to arrest Low, believed to be residing abroad, for his involvement in the 1MDB scandal.

He described Low and Najib’s stepson Riza as friends but said he was not aware of any dealings involving 1MDB funds in Riza’s Hollywood production company, which produced The Wolf of Wall Street among other movies.

When asked if he was still in touch with Low, Najib said:

“We have cut off communication again. I don’t know where he is.”

Low’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing in 1MDB. He has said US$681mil (RM2.72bil) transferred into his personal bank account was a donation from Saudi Arabia, and not as US lawsuits have alleged misappropriated funds from 1MDB.

Najib said he had been given assurances from the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud that Saudi Arabia would be sending a donation.

“All I knew, I accepted at face value that this is coming from the Saudis, from King Abdullah at his behest, at his instruction,” Najib said. – Reuters

 

Najib: I did not benefit from 1MDB in any way 

 

His say: ‘If anyone is found to be on the wrong side of the law, let the legal process take its course.’

LANGKAWI: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has denied that he benefitted from 1MDB, adding that he believed that the sovereign fund had been created to do “something good for the country”.

“If I knew there was going to be misappropriation of funds, if that was my knowledge, I would have acted,” he said.

To a question if he blamed the 1MDB board for the fund’s troubles, he said:

“No. I am saying as a general principle, if they are in the know that something is not right, then it is incumbent upon them to tell me. It is the fiduciary duty of the board and the management to do the right thing. I expect them to do the right thing and to follow the law.”

He also said that they had no control over what Jho Low – who has been named the main suspect in the 1MDB investigation – did, adding that he could not pass judgment.

“But there are certain things which he may or may not have done. But I am right to say that investigations should proceed and if anyone is found to be on the wrong side of the law, let the legal process take its course.

“No, he was not working on my behalf. All those items he never invoked my name but he did say he was acting for someone else,” he said.

Asked who Low was acting for, Najib said: “You have to ask him that.”

He also said that he had not talked much about the 1MDB allegations because all these things happened out of Malaysia and that there were some “international ramifications” if he were to name certain prominent individuals who might affect the country’s diplomatic relations.

“I would also like to place on record that (his step-son) Riza has done very well – the movies, the box office sales has reached beyond RM3.2bil. So, it is not abusing concern. It is a profitable concern. But source of funding is subject to investigation. I think we will leave it at that.”

On RM2.6bil that was moved into his personal account in 2013, he said with the general election coming then, he had not wanted to get funding from companies as they would expect something in return eventually.

“If I have a source of funding, I could fund the elections and I could also do a lot CSR (corporate social responsibility) work without being obligated to anyone. That was my real intention you see. And I assumed everything was fine,” he said, maintaining that the RM114mil ringgit allegedly seized during investigation into 1MDB to be “genuine donations because the raid happened just two days after the 14th General Election. As president of the party, I had to prepare for the elections, and elections are very expensive affairs.

“Because donations are made in cash in election times. You don’t send cheques during election times, because people want cash. That is when monies are disbursed accordingly.”

On Barisan Nasional’s defeat in the elections, Najib said he saw part of it coming but that he did not expect it to be this catastrophic, blaming it on Opposition’s allegations that changed public opinion.

On the reopening of the Altantuya Shaaribuu murder case, he said the case had already been dealt with and denied that there was any evidence that he had ever met her.

“There are no records, no pictures or witness to say that I even knew her. It was subject to a proper trial and my name didn’t come up during the trial whatsoever.

“I’m on record to have sworn in a mosque in the name of Allah that I had nothing to do with the case.” – The Star

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Putting in place a new Malaysian order


Robert Kuok attends CEP meeting

THE winds of change have been sweeping through the country in the past fortnight at breathtaking speed.

First, the incredible election results that very few predicted correctly. Then the post-election drama until Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed was sworn in for a historic second time as PM. Followed by many decisions and measures announced daily as Mahathir hit the ground running, or rather sprinting.

The liberation of Anwar Ibrahim “from prison to palace” and from palace to padang for the night rally last Wednesday completed the key milestones in the quick journey from the old discredited order to the new world being born.

Mahathir was not only the man of the hour, masterfully guiding the ship to the harbour, avoiding the last dangers, but also a man in a hurry, laying the foundations for recovering the economy, reforms to key institutions, and getting to the bottom of the 1MDB sacndal.

Quite a few have aptly quoted Shakespeare to describe what happened: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which when taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”

There is another saying, when a revolution has taken place but there is chaos afterwards and the future is uncertain: “The old world is dying but the new cannot be born.”

What is most remarkable about the first post-election days is not how quickly the old era is passing away but how rapidly the new order is being built.

The reconciliation of the two giants of Malaysian politics, Mahathir and Anwar, paved the way to this remarkable new chapter.

When they fell out two decades ago, their story was worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. Destiny or will or both have provided them a second chance to get it right this time, and if they do, Malaysia itself will have the opportunity to have a bright future.

It will always be remembered that the sacrifices made by Anwar and his family through his three jail terms and the reformasi movement he generated brought the country to where it is.

Equally, history will record that Mahathir not only laid the foundation of the country’s recent economic development and progressive foreign policy in his long stint as PM but also that he returned to “save Malaysia” from the lowest depths the country had descended into.

If reformasi has been the war cry, implementing a true reform agenda is now the prerogative.

Mahathir has now embarked full scale on reform – Anwar says his role is to keep it on the right track.

Understandably, the PM’s first priority is the economy. The new government has been acting to ensure that as far as possible its new policies should not lead to confidence erosion by investors and fund managers.

Removing the GST, Pakatan Harapan’s main election promise, is the number one political prerogative. Concerns that this will lead to a RM40bil revenue shortfall are being countered by expectations of increased revenue from renewal of a sales tax, the hike in oil prices to the current US$80 (RM318) a barrel, and savings from a planned reduction of wastage in government expenditure. The GST removal on June 1 should also lead to price reductions, a boost to consumer spending and the economy as a whole, and thus generate extra state revenue.

The new government will have to deal with the explosive jump in government debt in recent years. In a mere six years between 2011 and 2017, government debt rose 51% from RM456bil to RM687bil, while government-guaranteed debt jumped 94% from RM117bil to RM227bil.

Added together, the federal and federal-guaranteed debt went from RM573bil to RM914bil. It might be more if the debts of other entities are included.

This massive jump in debt may partly explain how the previous government was able to splurge on many projects and on welfare schemes, in failed efforts to win over the public and in schemes that mainly benefited the powerful and their cronies.

The commercial viability and social value of many of the loan-fuelled expenses are questionable.

An audit should be done on sources and uses of the loans, and how to reduce the damage by cutting loss-making projects and improving the performance of those that can be saved.

Recent years also saw the opening up of financial sectors, leading to high foreign participation in government debt and in the stock market, as capital surged into emerging markets like Malaysia in search of higher yield.

There are benefits in good years, but the country also becomes more vulnerable when global trends turn negative, as is happening since higher interest rates in the United States are prompting capital to flow back.

Dealing with the boom-and-bust cycle in capital flows will be a challenge for the new government.

Beyond economics and institutional reforms, there are other pressing issues the new government should focus on.

One of them is the environment. There are crises developing, on water resources and supply, floods, damage to forests and watersheds, hillside collapse and erosion, deterioration of the coastal environment and of course climate change.

Environmental damage harms social life and the economy. Floods and water shortage affect production, and fish prices have shot up due to overfishing and sea pollution.

Priority must thus be put on revamping environment-related policies and on strengthening the Environment Ministry. They have been neglected for far too long.

–  By Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Related:

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A beacon for peaceful change

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EXCLUSIVE:
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Penang govt rapped over hill slope development


FMT – GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Forum has repeated its call for all hillslope development to be stopped immediately, following deadly hillslope collapse ...
Geotechnical engineer Aziz Noor says the new project puts the people and the place in danger

 

Engineer: Lives at risk in Penang hill project

 

GEORGE TOWN: The DAP-led state government has turned a blind eye on the imminent danger of hill slope development, said a Tanjung Bungah resident.

At a forum-cum-press conference yesterday, geotechnical consultant Aziz Noor (pic) said building the proposed multi-storey mixed development behind the Miami Green Resort Condominium would pose a danger to the condo and its residents.

The development which has been approved on the class four hill, comprises five 29-storey building blocks, two 34-storey serviced apartments with 336 units each and one block of affordable apartments with 197 units.

Meanwhile, former Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who is the Tanjong Bungah candidate for Pakatan Harapan, said the state government would review the guidelines on hill slope development. – Bernama

 


GEORGE TOWN: An engineer has sounded a warning about “imminent danger” from a new hillside development of eight tower blocks of apartments planned in an environmentally-sensitive area of Tanjung Bungah.

Geotechnical consultant Aziz Noor, speaking at a forum-cum-press conference today, accused the DAP-led state government of turning a blind eye on the imminent danger of hill slope development.

The proposed mixed development behind Miami Green Resort condominium puts the existing residence and its people in danger, he said.

The development has been approved on a 12-acre plot with a 35-degree slope on a Class Four hill, which exceeds 250 feet above sea level.

It comprises five 29-storey tower blocks, two 34-storey blocks of 336 serviced apartments each, and one block of 197 units of affordable apartments.

Aziz said that the project was not only in an environmentally sensitive area, it also contradicts the 2007 Penang Structure Plan that forbid any development above a gradient of 25-degree gradient and 250 feet above sea-level.

The design of one development does not guarantee safety. A Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment must be conducted and reviewed. This development puts the place and people in imminent danger,” he said.

Residents of the area said they had vented their frustration multiple times since November but had not received any response from the state government and Penang Island City Council.

The residents, together with the Tanjung Bunga residents association, had spoken on the matter many times, but no one seemed bothered, said one of the residents, Lim Liew Ming.

“Our lives are at risk. The upcoming development is a ticking time-bomb. Are the authorities waiting for a tragedy to happen, and only then act on it?,” she asked.

State Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, who is also BN candidate for the Tanjong Bunga state seat in the general election, said the project should have been shelved from the beginning.

“We will put a stop to this. Even if we need to pay compensation,” he said.

The Barisan Nasional has pledged to declare all highland and hill slope areas of 250 feet above sea-level as permanent forest reserve.

Former Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who is the Pakatan Harapan candidate for Tanjong Bunga, said the state government would review the guidelines on hill slope development.

Source:FMT.Click here to get live updates throughout the GE14 season

 

GEORGE TOWN: An MCA state leader has criticised Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over the latter’s statement that more stop-work orders have been issued against hillside development by the current state government.

State MCA Wanita chairman Tan Cheng Liang said Lim, who is also the DAP secretary-general, had “conveniently avoided” revealing the increase in number of protests in the state since 2008.

“He boasts about more stop-work orders being issued now compared to when Barisan Nasional was helming the state government.

“However, he failed to reveal that there have been more protests by Penangites against hillside development since Pakatan Rakyat took over.

“The latest is the chorus of dissatisfaction by residents of Mount Pleasure in Batu Ferringhi, objecting against approval accorded by the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) for the construction of 21 four-storey villas and 80 two-storey bungalows there,” she said.

She said the 2008 DAP general election manifesto unveiled by Lim promised to “preserve our forest, wetlands and bio-diversity” while Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy framework stressed that the “environment must be preserved for the sustainability of future generations.”

“Just six weeks ago, Lim said in a speech that the Pakatan government was proud of its record of not approving any hillside development.

“However, the voices of disapproval by Penangites are evidence that Lim, the DAP and Pakatan are deceptive,” she claimed.

Citing examples, she said on April 8 this year, Sungai Ara residents protested against approval issued by MPPP Planning Department for two hillside development projects and in February 2009, Tanjung Bungah residents protested and submitted a memorandum calling on the state government to ban all current and future Class III and Class IV hillslope development projects.

“In view of these protests and to deliver the DAP and Pakatan’s pledge to protect the environment, I challenge Lim and the state government to issue a stop-work orders against all hillside development projects approved by MPPP,” she said in a press release yesterday.

Tan also took a swipe at Lim for focusing on luxury residences but allegedly had no regard for the poor.

“Approvals are given for exclusive housing and condominium projects on hills, but scant attention is given to low-cost housing for the poor where no low or medium cost units were constructed between 2008 to 2011,” she claimed.

On Tuesday, Lim said more stop-work orders had been issued by both local councils since 2008 compared to previously.

He said this proved that the state government was “more stringent in upholding the rule of law, demanding strict compliance with technical requirements and more unforgiving than Barisan.” – The Star

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Moving forward with affordable housing


One way to solve housing shortage problem is to build more houses.

“If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such
as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very
important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing
for their people.”

THE issue of affordable housing has been a hot potato for many countries, especially for a nation with a growing population and urbanisation like ours.

In my previous article, I mentioned that there was a growing shortage of affordable housing in our country according to Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim. The shortage is expected to reach one million units by 2020.

According to Bank of England governor Mark Carney, one of the most effective ways to address the issue is to build more houses. There are good examples in countries like United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore, which have 2.4, 2.6 and 3.35 persons per household respectively.

In comparison, the average persons per household in our country is 4.06 person, a ratio which Australia had already achieved in 1933! To improve the current ratio, we need to put more effort into building houses to bring prices down.

If we take a look at countries with commendable housing policies such as Singapore and Hong Kong, we notice that the government plays a very important role in building and ensuring a sufficient supply of housing for their people.

For example in Singapore, their Housing and Development Board (HDB) has built over one million flats and houses since 1960, to house 90% of Singaporeans in their properties. In Hong Kong, the government provides affordable housing for lower-income residents, with nearly half of the population residing in some form of public housing nowadays. The rents and prices of public housing are subsidised by the government and are significantly lower than for private housing.

To be on par with Australia (2.6 persons per household), our country needs a total of 8.6 million homes to house our urban population of 22.4 million people. In other words, we need an additional 3.3 million houses on top of our existing 5.3 million residential houses.

However, with our current total national housing production of about 80,000 units a year, it will take us more than 40 years to build 3.3 million houses! With household formation growing at a faster rate than housing production, we will still be faced with a housing shortage 40 years from now.

Therefore, even if the private sector dedicated all its current output to build affordable housing, it will still be a long journey ahead to produce sufficient houses for the nation. It is of course impossible for the private sector to do so as it will be running at a loss due to rising costs of land and construction.

In view of the above, the government has to shoulder the responsibility of building more houses for the rakyat due to the availability of resources owned by the government. Land, for example, is the most crucial element in housing development. As a lot of land resources are owned by government, they must offer these lands to relevant agencies or authorities to develop affordable housing.

I recall when I was one of the founding directors of the Selangor State Development Corp in 1970s, its main objectives was to build public housing for the rakyat.

However, today the corporation has also ventured into high end developments in order to subsidise its affordable housing initiatives. This will somehow distract them from focusing on the affordable housing sector.

Although government has rolled out various initiatives in encouraging affordable houses, it is also important for the authorities to constantly review the original objectives of the relevant housing agencies, such as the various State Economic Development Corporations, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, and 1 Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme, to ensure they have ample resources especially land and funding to continue their mission in building affordable housing.

A successful housing policy and easy access to affordable housing have a huge impact on the rakyat. It is hoped that our government escalates its effort in building affordable housing, which will enhance the happiness and well-being of the people, and the advancement of our nation.


Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
By Alan Tong

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