Johor’s biggest corruption cases: land and housing scandal, slapped with 33 counts of graft


TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (right) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (left) in the land development scandal.

After weeks of investigation, state executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi is finally brought to court to face 33 counts of graft. The land and housing scandal – one of Johor’s biggest corruption cases – is however set to widen as graft busters warn of more suspects to be charged soon.


MACC expected to haul up more people in land and housing scandal

JOHOR BARU: One of the state’s largest corruption scandals is about to get bigger as more people are expected to be hauled up to court in the coming weeks.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said they might be charged with the case involving Johor executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi either this month or next.

Among those to be charged, he said, were those who had been arrested previously.

However, he declined to reveal their names so as not to jeopardise MACC’s investigation, saying that no VIPs were involved.

“We are in the midst of completing our probe with the Deputy Public Prosecutor before charging them in court soon,” he told reporters after meeting MACC investigation director Datuk Simi Abd Ghani and Johor MACC director Datuk Azmi Alias here yesterday.

Azam said it was also possible for Abd Latif, who was jointly accused with property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud of committing 33 counts of graft yesterday, to face another round of charges then.

It was reported that eight suspects, including Abd Latiff ’s eldest son as well as his special officer, were nabbed by the MACC on Feb 24.

Anti-graft officers detained them after sifting through stacks of documents seized from the state government and developers.

They also seized luxury goods, including 21 cars such as Bentley, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, five high-powered motorcycles and 150 handbags.

On its probe into the purchase of real estate in Australia by Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd, Azam said MACC called up 24 witnesses and visited seven premises, including a law firm, the offices of both Mara Inc and an appraiser, and their associates.

“All related documents have also been seized. We have gathered more new information, and it is a continuous investigation from the previous case in 2015,” he said.

“We need more time to complete this case as it involves another country.

“We have put in a request under a mutual legal assistance with the Australian AttorneyGeneral’s office but have yet to receive any response.

“We will also prepare the documents to be sent to Australia,” he said.

MACC had previously recorded the state- ment of suspended Mara chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa over the same investigation.

Annuar also handed over several documents relevant to the case.

The issue came to light after Australian newspaper The Age claimed that several senior Mara officials and a former politician had spent millions of Malaysian Government funds to buy an apartment block, known as Dudley International House, in Melbourne

Azam said his officers were also in the midst of preparing a report into alleged match fixing by football players from the Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysia Indian Football Association.

“We expect this case to be completed within two to three weeks after we hand over the report to the deputy public prosecutor for charging.

Source:The Star headline news

Slapped with 33 counts of graft

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JOHOR BARU: State executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi has been charged in the Sessions Court here with 33 counts of graft, the earliest of which stretches back to just six months after he assumed office.

TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (above) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (below) in the land development scandal.

Abd Latif, 51, was sworn in to his post as Johor Housing and Local Government Committee chairman in 2013 and according to the list of charges, he allegedly abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud on Nov 13 that same year to convert bumiputra lots into non-bumiputra lots.

Yesterday, the court interpreter took about 15 minutes to read the list of charges to each of the accused in the case, considered one of the biggest corruption scandals in the state.

In total, Abd Latif is said to have abetted Amir, 44, to convert 1,480 houses.

He is also accused of helping to reduce the quantum of payment that developers had to contribute towards the Johor Housing Fund for converting these lots.

The offences, the last of which supposedly took place on Sept 13, 2016, involved payments of between RM100,000 and RM3.7mil.

Totalling some RM30.3mil, this involved development projects in Kota Masai, Tebrau, Kulai, Kempas, Nusajaya and Johor Baru.

Among the converted lots were apartments, double-storey terrace homes, cluster houses, cluster industrial lots, semi-Ds and bungalows.

Abd Latif was charged under Section 28 (1) (c) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act for abetment, which was read together with Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes.

Amir was charged with 33 counts under Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes for himself and Abdul Latif.

Judge Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nasir set bail at RM2mil in one surety for each of the accused and ordered their passports to be surrendered until the trial was over. He also fixed May 23 for mention.

At press time, only Amir posted bail while Abd Latif, who was unable to raise the amount, was sent to the Ulu Choh detention centre.

Earlier, 15 minutes after Abd Latif and Amir were ushered into the packed courtroom, a defence lawyer stood up and asked for their “Lokap SPRM” orange T-shirts to be removed.

Both Abd Latif, who took time to hug and shake the hands of several people, and Amir then changed into long-sleeved shirts.

Abd Latif was represented by a six-man legal team led by Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican while two lawyers, headed by Azrul Zulkifli Stork, stood for Amir.

The case was prosecuted by MACC director Datuk Masri Mohd Daud, with assistance from Raja Amir Nasruddin.

Source: The Star by Nelson Benjamin and Norbaiti phaharoradzi

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Penang has confirmed the illegal hill clearing cases reported by Penang Forum


Land clearing in Penang is rampant with Civil liberties group, Penang Forum (PF) revealing only 7.4 per cent of the state is categorised as forested land. NSTP pix
Location : Near Lintang Bukit Jambul 1
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Report sent in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014. PHW Report 15 pix.

 

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has acknowledged that nine out of 29 hill clearing cases on the island, as reported by Penang Forum , were illegal.

Penang Forum representative Rexy Prakash Chacko said state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had a discussion with them last week.

This came about after the forum’s first Penang Hills Watch (PHW) report on hill clearing cases was submitted to the state on Jan 2.

“They investigated the report and concluded that only nine were illegal clearing activities while the rest were legally permitted land works (14) and natural slope failure (one). The other five cases are still being investigated by the relevant departments.

“The illegal clearing cases have been issued with stop work orders or are being followed up by court action,” he said on Saturday.

Chacko commended Penang’s concern and transparency in responding to the PHW report.

He urged for close monitoring on the nine illegal clearing cases and for mitigation action to be taken to rehabilitate the areas if necessary.

“For those with permits, the forum hopes that the clearing will strictly adhere to the state laws on land works and drainage.”

Chow, when met at Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo’s CNY open house in Taman Free School, said he had discussed with Penang Forum members about the report and answered their queries.

The public can view the PHW report as well as the response from the state government at the Penang Hills Watch Facebook page (@PenangHillsWatch) or the Penang Forum website, and see them interactively on a map at the Penang Hills Watch page.

PHW, a citizen-oriented initiative to provide a platform to monitor activities affecting the hills of Penang, was launched in October last year by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups often critical of the state government’s plans and policies. –  The Star

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Penang Forum tells Chief Minister: the unmitigated disasters on hill projects


The Penang Forum steering committee released the following ‘executive summary’ to the media during its meeting with the chief minister of Penang

The Penang Forum steering committee released the following ‘executive summary’ to the media during its meeting with the chief minister of Penang:

To address public concerns over hill degradation in Penang, the Penang Forum took the initiative in September 2015 to co-organise a public forum on hill development with the MBPP and relevant Penang state authorities.

But the council and the state decided not to participate in the effort and missed the opportunity to engage with the public.

In organising the public forum, the Penang Forum is non-partisan and has not been influenced by any other body or organisation.

The Penang Forum has not been misinformed. Its information and data came from two sources:

  • answers provided by the State Exco to the State Assembly sitting in November 2015 on the number of legal projects and illegal clearings on sensitive hill land between 2008 and 2015; and
  • photographs provided by members of public, resident associations, Google Earth satellite imagery and drone shots.
    The scarring on Bukit Relau has grown into an unmitigated disaster. Despite a stop work order and a fine against those responsible, major earthworks, including the building of road infrastructure, have taken place.

While it is technically possible to build safely on hill slopes many stringent conditions must first be in place and complied with. The present approach to environmental and engineering impact assessment done in isolation for individual hill development projects should be reviewed.

The Penang Forum calls on the Penang state government to comply with its own stated policies of prohibiting development on hill land above 76m (250 feet) and/or with a gradient greater than 25 degrees.

Special projects should be limited only to those of public interest.

We recommend that the authorities implement a holistic planning and monitoring system that takes account of cumulative impacts for the whole hill area under development.

We call for violators to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, including jail sentences and to be blacklisted for future projects.

We call upon the authorities to require all offenders to restore the damaged hills to their original condition.

Penang Forum steering committee
11 January 2016

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Penang Forum concerns over hill clearing and floods; the Declaration & Recommendation


Under fire over hill slope developments

Penangites upset with approval of high-rises on slopes…

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government has come under fire for the clearing of hills and high number of high-rise buildings approved on slopes above the permitted 76m and 25-degree gradient.

Environmentalist and scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng claimed that massive hill clearing from 2008 to 2015 at Pantai Acheh and Teluk Bahang endangered the lush hills at the Penang National Park boundary where the Teluk Bahang Dam is situated.

She also said the state government claims to listen to the people but went ahead and redesignated Bukit Relau, infamously known as Botak Hill, as a residential zone in 2012 amidst massive protest against the development of the hill.

She also decried the big number of projects approved on slopes above 76m and 25-degree gradient when the Penang Structure Plan clearly stated that there could be no development on such slopes.

Dr Kam was delivering a talk titled, ‘What is happening to our hills’ at the Save The Hills of Penang public forum at Dewan Sri Pinang here yesterday.

A handout distributed to the 300-odd participants of the event claimed that 30 blocks of high-rise buildings were approved on such slopes in Paya Terubong, 15 blocks in Bayan Lepas, 14 blocks in the Tanjung Bungah/Batu Ferringhi belt and nine blocks in Teluk Kumbar/Balik Pulau.

Universiti Sains Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor Dr Sharom Ahmat said hill development above 76m could be approved under ‘special projects’ if it benefits the masses but added that “bungalows costing RM4mil to RM5mil are barely for the people.”

In his talk titled, ‘Why are we here today?’, he claimed that public hearings seemed to be more of a formality as decisions were made before such hearings.

Environmentalist and engineer K.K. Lim, in his presentation ‘Are our hills protected by the government’, said the rampant development on the hills could see a repeat of the Highland Towers tragedy in 1993.

He said soil erosion due to rain and the lack of water retention because of hill clearing could bring a major disaster in the event of a landslide.

In her talk ‘Hill Offenders: Fine? Jail? Nothing?’, lawyer Datuk Agatha Foo said the RM500,000 and RM50,000 fines for violations under the Town and Country Planning Act and State Drainage and Building Act respectively were not a deterrent.

“It is merely a slap on the wrist,” she said, claiming that developers pay the fine as part of their development expenditure.

A declaration was made at the end of the half-day forum. It among others, urged the state government to comply with its own policy of prohibiting development on hill land above 76m or greater than 25-degree gradient and not to include ordinary residential buildings as special projects.

It also called upon the state government and Penang Island City Council to prosecute violators to the full extent of the law, including imposing jail sentences and to blacklist all offenders for future development projects.

Two PKR elected representatives were among those who attended the event organised by the Penang Forum which is a loose coalition of public-interest civil society groups. They were Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin and Batu Uban assemblyman Dr T. Jayabalan.

By Sekaran The Star

Forum Declaration & Recommendation:

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Save Penang Hill from the greedy


Uphill battle: A hiker passing by a vegetable farm on Penang Hill overlooking Air Itam.

Treasured heritage seems to be losing its charm to illegal farms and development

THE stall at the Air Itam market in Penang is said to offer the best asam laksa in Malaysia.

Rain or shine, it pulls in the crowd.

The ingredients for the dish such as ginger bud (bunga kantan), mint leaves (daun pudina), laksa leaves (daun kesum) and kalamansi limes (limau kasturi) come from Penang Hill, which is less than 200m away.

Farmers who cultivate the land at the hillslope sell their produce at the wet markets on the island.

The fertile hillslope from Air Itam to Paya Terubong is cultivated with vegetables and fruits.

Demand for the produce is so great that farmers are illegally clearing the hillslope to expand their farms.

About 2km from the market along Jalan Paya Terubong, there is a trail leading to a hillslope.

Lately, hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts have been using the trail to reach the 135-year-old Cheng Kon Tse Temple, nestled on the slope of the hill.

Travellers can see vegetable farms and fruit trees on both sides of the trail.

There are nutmeg trees, kalamansi lime trees, papaya and banana trees.

The vegetables include lemon grass, lady fingers and sweet potato.

As one continues walking up, a large swathe of hillslope which had been cleared near the telecommunication towers comes into view.

The bald patch can be seen from the Paya Terubong road below.

The slopes on Penang Hill have been cleared by farmers over the past few decades.

Such illegal hillslope clearing has been raised by environmental groups but there has been no firm action from the authorities.

A former Penang Island City Councillor claimed that he had provided pictures of the clearings to state leaders and that he had also raised the matter with the Consumers Association of Penang and Malaysian Nature Society.

“The press should continue to highlight the issue so that something is done finally,” said the former councillor who did not want to be identified for fear that the farmers might go after him.

“Penang Hill is our heritage. But no one seems to bother,” he said.

Besides Penang Hill, bald patches are also appearing on hills in several parts of the island.

Bukit Relau in Jalan Bukit Gambier has been dubbed “botak hill”.

There is also hill clearance in Bukit Kukus in Paya Terubong and Bukit Laksamana, a water catchment for the Teluk Bahang Dam.

More and more hillslopes are going bald because of developers and contractors who cleared the land without the authorities’ approval.

The clearings are done on weekends and smoke can be seen from far when the trees are burnt.

A large swathe of land has also been cleared at a place referred by hikers as level 45 station.

It should not be difficult to nab the culprits since there are cemented trails all over the hillslopes in Air Itam and Paya Terubong.

When The Star reported on Feb 14 last year that more bald spots could be seen, a state exco member said they had pictures of the illegal activity and that action would be taken against the culprits but till now, no one knows what the action is.

It is troubling that all this is happening under a state government which emphasises on Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

Penang Hill seems to be losing its charm.

Yet, the state government seems to be focused on mega projects and land reclamation.

At a state assembly sitting last month, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the Penang Island City Council was using drones to check on illegal hill clearing and CCTVs would be installed next year to monitor illegal earthworks.

The spate of hill clearings has prompted the Penang Forum, a coalition of public interest NGOs, to hold a forum on Save the Hills of Penang tomorrow.

Hopefully, the outcome from the event will reach the right ears.

There is a compelling need to save the hills from greedy farmers and developers.

Comment by K. Suthakdar

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Errant hill clearing by developers causes of floods, sinkholes, seepages damaged houses!

 

Errant hill clearing by developers causes of floods, sinkholes, seepages damaged houses!


Land clearing in Penang is rampant with Civil liberties group, Penang Forum (PF) revealing only 7.4 per cent of the state is categorised as forested land. NSTP pix
Location : Near Lintang Bukit Jambul 1
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Report sent in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014. PHW Report 15 pix.

 

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has acknowledged that nine out of 29 hill clearing cases on the island, as reported by Penang Forum , were illegal.

Penang Forum representative Rexy Prakash Chacko said state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had a discussion with them last week.

This came about after the forum’s first Penang Hills Watch (PHW) report on hill clearing cases was submitted to the state on Jan 2.

“They investigated the report and concluded that only nine were illegal clearing activities while the rest were legally permitted land works (14) and natural slope failure (one). The other five cases are still being investigated by the relevant departments.

“The illegal clearing cases have been issued with stop work orders or are being followed up by court action,” he said on Saturday.

Chacko commended Penang’s concern and transparency in responding to the PHW report.

He urged for close monitoring on the nine illegal clearing cases and for mitigation action to be taken to rehabilitate the areas if necessary.

“For those with permits, the forum hopes that the clearing will strictly adhere to the state laws on land works and drainage.”

Chow, when met at Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo’s CNY open house in Taman Free School, said he had discussed with Penang Forum members about the report and answered their queries.

The public can view the PHW report as well as the response from the state government at the Penang Hills Watch Facebook page (@PenangHillsWatch) or the Penang Forum website, and see them interactively on a map at the Penang Hills Watch page.

PHW, a citizen-oriented initiative to provide a platform to monitor activities affecting the hills of Penang, was launched in October last year by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups often critical of the state government’s plans and policies. –  The Star

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Penang Forum launches Penang Hills Watch | Malaysia

Dec 26, 2016 Dr Lim has raised various concerns during his stint as a councillor and forum member on issues related to hill clearing, land reclamation, …

Big boost for Asia with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) launch, a positive step!


Financing required as Asia remains with looming infrastructure needs

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (C-R) meeting with the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China 24 October 2014. 21 Asian countries are the founding members of the AIIB, an initiative by China. – EPA

THE launch of the US$50bil Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a positive step for the development of Asia where large areas remain with looming infrastructure needs.

There has been good work done by other international bodies, but due to the vast financing needs of the region, there is always place for another major bank to put in the good work.

The AIIB was launched in Beijing last Friday at a ceremony attended by Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei and delegates from 21 countries including India, Thailand and Malaysia, said Reuters.

It aims to give project loans to developing nations with China set to be its largest shareholder with a stake of up to 50%.

In a speech to delegates after the inauguration, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the new bank would use the best practices of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, said Reuters.

The authorised capital of the bank would be US$100bil; the AIIB would be formally established by the end of 2015 with its headquarters in Beijing.

There was a huge demand for infrastructure investment in Asia; the Asian Development Bank (AIIB) put that at around US$8 trillion of investment during the current decade, said the Singapore Business Times (SBT) in a report earlier.

A principal motive in proposing the AIIB was to invest part of China’s US$4 trillion foreign reserves in higher-yielding assets than US Treasury bills, said SBT, also quoting diplomatic sources.

In addressing the potential rivalry between the AIIB and other international aid bodies, one has to look at the big picture in what will benefit Asia in the long run.

If carried out successfully, infrastructure development across Asia will help narrow the gap between the more and less developed areas.

China is already in partnership with India to develop infrastructure and industrial parks in India.

Spreading its infrastructure investments over the rest of Asia would be a natural step towards that development.

After warning on excessive speculation in currency and debt markets, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is looking at the low hedging levels by companies and the currency risks they face.

If indirect pressure on companies via their bankers failed, the RBI may consider forcing companies to submit detailed financial information through their lenders, said Reuters, quoting bankers who met with RBI officials earlier this month.

The RBI’s warnings signalled its concern that unhedged firms could be a vulnerable link should global markets buckle, said Reuters.

The central bank had worked hard to build up its defences after India last year weathered its worst rupee crisis in two decades, said Reuters.

Hedging, meanwhile, is expensive because India’s elevated interest rates mean forward premiums are high, said Reuters.

The RBI is keeping tabs on every aspect of companies’ exposure to currency risks.

After working hard to build up its defences on the rupee, the RBI would not want some other segment of the capital market to fail to keep pace.

The bosses at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is still under government ownership, were dealt an embarassing blow when their proposal to pay high bonuses was shot down.

The Treasury stopped RBS from paying some staff bonuses worth twice their salaries, said Reuters, quoting James Leigh-Pemberton, chairman of UK Financial Investments (UKFI) which controls the taxpayer-owned 79% of RBS.

UKFI had recommended that RBS be allowed to pay that level of bonus to retain staff and attract talent, said Reuters.

Retention of staff is a dicey issue when it involves banks that are still in the throes of reform.

It is a Catch 22 situation where these banks are still experiencing falling revenues and low share prices.

The situation will probably improve when these banks can reap the fruits of their revamp and get off the hook with government owning the stake.


By YAP LENG KUEN… PLAIN SPEAKING  The Star/Asia News Network
Columnist Yap Leng Kuen looks forward to a more balanced infrastructure development in Asia.

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