MACC spends 7 hours recording Hisham’s statement on Mindef land swaps

Former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) took seven hours today to record a statement from former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein on the ministry’s land swap deals.

He is the second former Barisan Nasional (BN) minister who has been quizzed over the land swap deal.

Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had his statement taken on Thursday over the same issue.

“It’s important to maintain the integrity, credibility and the position of MACC.

“I have given full cooperation to MACC and will work very closely with them to find the truth.

“I’m satisfied with the professionalism shown by MACC. If they need future assistance, I will not hesitate to help because we want to find the truth,” he told reporters at the MACC headquarters at 6pm today.

Hishammuddin however warned that MACC should not do any selective investigations.

“Don’t investigate because there is an ulterior motive. I have nothing to hide. If I’m guilty, then charge me.

“But make sure you don’t charge me alone. Charge the rest of the ministers involved,” he told reporters at the MACC headquarters after recording his statement.

He added that MACC must conduct thorough investigations on all 16 land swaps.

“If you want to talk about procedures, let’s see what procedures were used during the previous leadership, whether by the previous prime ministers or previous ministers,” he added.

Hishammuddin said he had answered in detail today but the MACC should not just stop here.

“Ambrin Buang’s (former auditor-general) report talks about 16 land swaps. Let’s see who is wrong because we want to get to the truth.”

Hishammuddin took over the defence minister’s post from Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and held office until the May 2018 general election.

Asked how many of the land swaps were under his tenure as defence minister, Hishammuddin indicated there was only one (Paloh).

He hoped other ministers involved will be called as well. “What’s so special about mine?

“Which one actually lost money? Who are the contractors given land in the past? Who actually benefitted? I have said categorically I have not benefitted even one sen from any of these land swaps.

“What I did is for the welfare of the soldiers and their families. Where are you going to find the money otherwise?

“If you’re going to accuse me, then suggest what to do for the welfare of the soldiers and their families. Let’s be fair about it.”

“I want the defence minister and his deputy to tell me about the land swaps that happened way before my time.

“I also want them to reveal their plans to upgrade the various camps and soldiers’ houses. They have been waiting for years to live comfortably. Let’s put things in perspective,” he said.

Hishammuddin was previously reported as saying he had nothing to hide if the authorities wanted to question him over the purchase of military assets during his tenure, following revelations that six US-made helicopters were never delivered despite a deal to acquire them for RM300 million.

Hishammuddin said the purchase of the six helicopters was not brought up.

“As I have already answered. I have nothing to hide. What’s wrong is wrong. The two officers charged in the case… I didn’t defend them.”

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Azam Baki said he did not rule out the possibility of MACC calling former prime minister Najib Razak to give his statement on the land swaps.

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.

Under these deals, those given the land in high-value areas agreed to build camps and other facilities in other allotted places for the armed forces to improve its facilities.

The 16 land swaps included those 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.

The Governance, Procurement and Finance Investigating Committee had investigated 16 deals involving 1,183ha of land belonging to Mindef.

Findings in one of the audit reports stated that a former prime minister and former defence ministers were found to have been clearly involved in the land swap deal for the development of the Muara Tuang and Penrissen camps in Sarawak.

The land at various camps in Bandar Kinrara, Hutan Melintang, Bera, Segamat, Paloh and Hutan Melintang were reported to be worth RM4.88 billion while the cost of the projects was tagged at RM4.9 billion.

On May 16, it was reported that Hishammuddin had urged Putrajaya to reclaim RM1.48 billion lost in the failed land swap deal involving the Plentong and Tebrau districts in Johor.

The deal, covering 382.16 acres, had been approved by the Cabinet in 1996 but was eventually cancelled.