Hisham lodges MACC report over defence ministry land swaps

Former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein has lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over the ministry’s land swap deals, the anti-graft agency confirmed today.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Azam Baki told reporters this morning that the report was lodged by one of Hishammuddin’s aides last week.

“He has submitted (the report) to my officer. My department, on the other hand, has not received the full report,” he said.

Azam was speaking to reporters after the closing ceremony of the anti-corruption training for MACC’s Thailand counterpart’s office at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy here.

He said MACC would look into Hishammuddin’s report as well as the audit report previously given to the commission.

He added that no one has been arrested but that investigations would look into any elements of crime, bribery or misuse of power.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad last week welcomed investigations into the 16 land swap deals, saying no one is above the law.

The 16 land swaps took place at Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur, Tanah Batu Uban in Penang, Bukit Raja in Selangor, Plentong in Johor, Tanah Rata in Pahang, Bandar Kinrara, Selangor and Stampin, Sarawak.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu earlier claimed that the prime minister and defence minister of the previous administration, including Hishammuddin, were involved in 13 of the 16 land deals.

He also confirmed that Hishammuddin had yet to be called in for questioning at the time.

Speaking today, Azam did not discount the possibility that former defence minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi would also be hauled up for investigation.

“We have to see first but I do not rule out the possibility. Anyone involved, we will call them,” he said.

Zahid was defence minister from 2009 to 2013. Hishammuddin succeeded him and held the position until the change in government last year.

Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, said investigations had found that the government lost more than RM500 million due to these land swaps.

The concept of land swaps began in 1997 but Mohamad said mismanagement occurred after Mahathir’s first tenure as prime minister.

The 16 projects, covering an area of 2,923 acres, were on a design-and-build basis where the cost would be borne by the private sector.

Mohamad said many discrepancies were found, including the sale of land at lower prices, while other land swap projects were given to unqualified developers.

“Political interests were above the government’s interests. No due diligence and weak planning and negotiation on some projects,” he said.