Rubber board chairman warns EPF over discounted land sale

Sankara-Nair3q56 Rubber board chairman warns EPF over discounted land sale
Sankara Nair says a civil action suit can be taken against Najib Razak and a former minister for causing huge losses to the Malaysian Rubber Board.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) has taken the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to task after the government retirement fund said it had done nothing wrong in its purchase of thousands of acres of land which is said to have caused MRB losses of close to RM800 million.

MRB chairman Sankara Nair said he had “concrete evidence” including pictures and documents to show that EPF knew about the sale of 2,800 acres of land in Sungai Buloh in 2010 for RM1.5 billion, below its market price of about RM2.3 billion.

“With this evidence, EPF’s assertion of being ignorant (over the sale) debunks their explanation,” he told FMT.

On Jan 4, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok claimed that MRB had in 2010 sold a 2,800-acre plot of land in Sungai Buloh to Aset Tanah Nasional Bhd (ATNB), a special purpose vehicle of the finance ministry, for RM1.5 billion.

ATNB sold 2,330 acres of the land to EPF-owned Kwasa Land Sdn Bhd for RM2.28 billion.

In its response, EPF denied knowledge of the arrangements between MRB and ATNB when purchasing the land from ATNB.

But Nair said the formal agreements were signed back to back simultaneously on Aug 16, 2011 by MRB, ATNB and Kwasa Land at an official signing ceremony.

“This indicates the EPF had full knowledge and was fully apprised of the price at which MRB sold the land to ATNB.

“It’s scandalous for the EPF to make a complete denial now,” he said.

Nair said MRB also kept a written agreement of the sale to ATNB.

“This entire explanation (by EPF) becomes questionable and raises grave concerns while MRB has been shortchanged by those involved,” he said.

EPF had said that the purchase of land from ATNB was done on an “arm’s length basis”, adding that strict due diligence was done prior to the transaction.

Nair said Kwasa should have bought the land directly from MRB to receive a discount, instead of going through ATNB and causing MRB to lose RM800 million.

fmt-Mohd-Lotfy-Mohd-Noh-epf Rubber board chairman warns EPF over discounted land sale
EPF-owned Kwasa Land managing director Mohd Lotfy Mohd Noh (far right) at a signing ceremony for the land sale from ATNB in August 2011. Others in the picture are (from left) then-MRB director-general Salmiah Ahmad, MoF undersecretary Eshah Meor Sulaiman, MRB chairman Ahmad Hamzah and Kwasa Land chairman Shamsudin Osman.

“How does this benefit EPF contributors?” he asked.

He also accused former prime minister Najib Razak and former plantation industries and commodities minister Bernard Dompok of breaching their fidiciary duties.

“No way Bernard Dompok would not have known the value of the land sale,” he said.

“He was the former valuer with the Sabah Land and Surveys Department and should be well aware of the land value.”

Dompok had said that the sale of the Sungai Buloh land was carried out under instruction from the previous government. He said MRB had decided to go for a valuation exercise before agreeing to a price.

He said MRB abided by the government’s decision for the land to be transferred to ATNB.

Nair said Dompok should have opposed the move as it was a loss to MRB which was under his ministry.

“He is lawfully responsible,” Nair said, adding that it was a clear case of malfeasance or misfeasance in public office.

Nair also said Najib had no business “orchestrating and engineering such an elaborate scheme by performing an indirect sale through a third party”.

“There was no necessity at all. A simple direct sale from MRB to Kwasa Land should have sufficed,” he said.

He said a civil action suit would be taken against Dompok and Najib for the recovery of the loss of RM800 million, adding that Najib had yet to respond on the matter.

But Nair doubted if the money was still with ATNB after seven years.

Nair, who took over as MRB chairman in July last year, said the board would gladly have given EPF a discount of RM800 million if it was instructed to do so by the government, saying this way it would benefit the people as well as EPF in meeting public housing needs.

“But it should never be done through a third party where a shortfall of RM800 million remains unexplained.”

Rubber board chairman warns EPF over discounted land sale