Rubber board sold land for RM800 mil less, says minister

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PETALING JAYA: Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok today accused the previous Barisan Nasional administration of shortchanging the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) by forcing it to sell 2,800 acres of land at an undervalued price of RM1.5 billion in 2010.

In a statement, she said the previous government in October 2010 approved and instructed the sale of land in Sungai Buloh, known as Lot 481, to Aset Tanah Negara Bhd.

She said this was done through a special purpose vehicle through direct sale, where MRB was arbitrarily paid RM1.5 billion as sale consideration.

She said it was now known that the 2,800 acres of land were subsequently bought by Kwasa Land, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Employees Provident Fund, for sale consideration of about RM2.28 billion.

“MRB was therefore shortchanged as there was a difference of about RM800 million.

“MRB therefore contends that it is lawfully entitled to the difference of RM800 million,” she said, adding that the sum was still unaccounted for.

She said the board had reported the transaction to the National Audit Department for audit and further investigation.

“Note that the total size of Lot 481 is about 3,385 acres,” she added. “Upon sale of the 2,800 acres, the balance of Lot 481 was reduced to only 585 acres.”

MRB chairman SN Nair said the company board had on Nov 19 undertaken extensive and drastic steps towards reform, in line with Kok’s call for transparency, efficiency and objectivity in its operations.

He said a new general oversight committee comprising the chairman and senior board members had been formed, along with two sub-committees to oversee audit, finance and research and development.

These committees had taken various measures including improving internal accounting controls, improving overall management and reorganising departments for greater efficiency, he said.

He said the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia (RRI), which became MRB in 1996, had been one of the best institutes of its kind in the world. However, it appeared to have lost its direction, he added.

According to the statement, the Cabinet at the time gave approval for the MRB board to use the RM1.5 billion to develop the remaining 585 acres of land.

In 2012 and 2013, the board decided to develop five facilities: a new lab, an office tower, a discovery centre (museum), sports facilities and a Sedec complex for technology transfer.

However, the project only achieved 5% completion and remained at the piling stage even after six years, causing the board to terminate the project in February last year.

“The board lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on Nov 27, 2018, in respect of the above, for breach of established MRB procedures which also resulted in about RM70 million in losses to MRB,” the statement said.