The Australian newspaper Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) on January 27 said a transaction surrounding the purchase of a property in Australia by a public fund from Malaysia has led up to Australian dollar 18.3 million that went into the pockets of conspirators, corrupt officials from Malaysia.
The scandal centres around the vastly inflated valuation of a 280-room city apartment building, UniLodge, which mostly houses overseas students on Swanston Street, near Melbourne University.
The paper said the excess money paid for the property rightly belonged to Malaysian taxpayers and was meant to be used to help the country’s development was wrongfully used.
The newspaper said journalists digging up the Panama Papers and other leaked files found that corrupt Malaysian officials which it said are tied to the ruling Umno party of Prime Minister Najib Razak, were behind both the property scam and the offshore companies that were involved in the fishy transaction.
The Sydney Morning Herald did not munch its words, saying a senior political figure named Mohammad Lan Allani was behind both the scam. He was the chairman of Mara Inc when the transaction took place.
And, according to bank transfers recently analysed by anti-corruption investigators, Mr Allani’s personal bank account was paid $3.2 million in kickbacks shortly after the $41.8 million left Malaysian government coffers.
When asked in 2015 about another corrupt deal, Mr Allani said he couldn’t recall them, and was only involved in setting up offshore companies in tax havens as a “convenient” way of selling property bought by the Malaysian government. When questioned about his knowledge of any alleged kickbacks, the former politician hung up the phone.
Fairfax Media said it has now traced at least $8 million in bribes and kickbacks funded by Melbourne property transactions to bank accounts controlled by corrupt Malaysian officials or their relatives or friends, but the figure is likely to be much higher.
The paper said in June 2012, a Malaysian government fund created to help the country’s rural poor asked Raine and Horne International to issue a valuation for the Melbourne building. But this was no ordinary request.
The paper said Mr Allani’s staff requested Raine and Horne to inflate the valuation, which brought the building price from its earlier valuation of $23.5 million, to $41.8 million which was then paid to an offshore firm by the Malaysian government fund to secure ownership of the property.
The higher valuation was done by Raine and Horne International’s Kuala Lumpur office, despite the fact that the building’s seller, Australian businessman Lionel Harber, had simultaneously valued it at $23.5 million.
This got the Australian real estate giant Raine and Horne’s offshore arm embroiled in a global corruption scandal involving the sale of the prime Melbourne property, together with corrupt Malaysian officials and the Panama Papers leak, said SMH.
The article follows earlier revelations of dirty money from Malaysia being laundered through Australian property purchases with few consequences for those facilitating the corruption.
It’s a problem which the Australian government insists it is confronting, but despite two years of investigations by the Australian Federal Police and a promise to expose the scam from Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, nobody is facing prosecution in either country, said SMH.
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