January 1, 2013
A LTAT-Deepak-Raja Ropiaah Deal that will hurt UMNO
by Wong Choon Mei, Alaa Soleiman, Malaysia Chronicle
Vowing to defend the Armed Forces pension fund (LTAT) from being pilfered by top government leaders, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR party has demanded that the Najib administration come clean on a RM160million deal to buy back land belonging to the Ministry of Defence.
The PKR response follows news a day ago that a unit of the Armed Forces’ pension fund had agreed to pay RM30 million to a controversial businessman Deepak Jaikishan and RM130 million to a firm controlled by Raja Ropiaah, the Selangor Wanita UMNO chief (left).
PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli accused Prime Minister Najib Razak and Defense Minister Zahid Hamidi of “gross abuse of power”, describing the latest transaction involving 223 hectares of Defense ministry land in Bukit Raja, Selangor as “outright bribery” and the “worst-ever case of bad investment I have seen”.
“It is plain and simple that the RM30million to acquire 80% of Astacanggih (Deepak’s firm) and the RM130 million paid (to Raja Ropiaah’s firm) for almost non-existent land is clear abuse of power by Zahid Hamidi. I dare say that Najib had tasked Zahid to handle this by whatever means necessary,” Rafizi, a UK-trained auditor, told a press conference last Saturday.
“You can ask any investment or research analysts and they will tell you this is not good investment practice. So why does the federal government enter into such a bad investment. One can only conclude this is meant to silence Deepak and to close the entire issue.”
Deepak (right), once a close friend of Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor, had in 2007 bought the land from Raja Ropiaah’s firm Awan Megah for about RM120million at RM12psf. But the deal has been “stuck” and the titles still not released to Astacanggih unit, Cebur Megah.
This resulted in Deepak suing Ropiaah and Awan Megah for specific performance and “criminal intent”, the Defense ministry as well as the land and mining office Pejabat Tanah dan Galian for not releasing the land titles to Cebur Megah.
Deepak also accused Ropiaah of ‘stealing’ and on-selling one of the three parcels of land to GuppyUnip Sdn Bhd at RM16psf. The case was heard at the Kuala Lumpur High Court late last month, with Deepak personally taking the stand. It was adjourned to December 14 but deferred pending a settlement that Deepak has since insisted was “forced” on him and his firm.
“It is true that my shareholders and me have sold our shares in Asta Canggih for RM30 million which is our actual cost price of RM13 million for Raja Ropiaah, RM8 million in political contributions, RM7 million of financial costs and RM2 million in legal and miscellaneous costs. This was an ultimatum that was forced upon us,” Deepak said in a text message on Friday.
Protecting pension fund of Armed Forces
The business bickering culminated in Deepak squealing on the ‘dark hands’ behind the deal. He accused Najib’s family of accepting millions of ringgit for Najib’s abusing his authority in approving the deal.
Najib, who was then the Defense Minister, has still not made any response to the series of damning allegations despite mounting public disgust and pressure from his own political party.
Rafizi slammed Najib for refusing to account to the public and accused him of quietly conspiring with Zahid to enter into “such a dubious” deal that would clearly place the Defense Ministry’s pension fund in a disadvantaged position.
“The fact that behind the silence, such a transaction has been sewn up to silence Deepak indicates there must have been some truth in his accusations. Deepak’s disclosures must have frightened Najib so much that he has got Boustead to enter into this deal,” said Rafizi.
“It is very cheeky for the Prime Minister to instruct the Defense minister to do such a deal. In any other country, a public inquiry would have been called. PKR will do all it can to frustrate the deal as this involves the LTAT, the pension fund of the Defense Ministry. It has become ridiculous. You have already lost RM250mil to one Minister and now you are going to lose RM160 mil of pensioners’ money to another minister.”
Rafizi was referring to the RM250mil NFC cattle-breeding fiasco that the family of UMNO Wanita’s chief Shahrizat Jalil has been accused of being involved in.
Najib will have to win back Selangor for the deal to go through
In the Deepak-Ropiaah case, Rafizi pointed out that the land had never changed hands in the first place and questioned why the Defense Ministry was buying back its own land.
“PKR will write to the Selangor state government to stop this deal. Previously we kept quiet because we weren’t sure how true Deepak’s allegations were. But now, after the Boustand announcement to the Bursa, all the pieces are starting to fit together. At the recent UMNO General Assembly, Zahid said he would look into the matter and find a way to resolve it. After that, there was silence. We thought it was just Najib up to his usual ways of refusing to answer to the public. Then Boustead made their announcement yesterday,” said Rafizi.
“This is clearly a deal pulled together deliberately to keep Deepak quiet. But it doesn’t seem to be working. How can Zahid (right) imagine such a deal can work? It will require the green light from the state government because the land is in Selangor. Deepak is now saying he is not going to shut up because he got only RM30 million and Ropiaah received RM130 million. We say to Deepak, don’t worry. We will do our utmost to frustrate this deal because the pensioners’ money is involved. In fact, we need to thank Tan Sri Khalid for insisting on checking all the details and not allowing the transfer to go through.”
Rafizi agreed the title to the land would probably have changed hands by now if not for the Opposition winning control of the Selangor state government in the 2008 general election. According to Rafizi, if Najib wanted the deal to go through the only way was if “he wins back Selangor”.
The state is the richest and has the biggest economy of Malaysia’s 13 states. Najib has previously vowed to take back Selangor “at all costs”. The state is now led by PKR Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.
Mindef unit paying RM160 million for land that still belongs to it
In a filing to the stock exchange, Boustead Holdings Bhd, a unit of LTAT, announced that its wholly-owned unit Bakti Wira Development Sdn Bhd had acquired an 80 per cent stake in Astacanggih Sdn Bhd for RM30 million.
Bakti Wira Development and Astacanggih also signed an agreement with Awan Megah earlier on Friday to acquire 80.94ha of freehold land in Klang, Selangor, for RM130 million. Describing the deal as an opportunity to expand its land bank, Boustead said the share purchase and land acquisition would be funded via bank borrowings and internally-generated funds.
“Moreover, the land was adjacent to 283.28ha of development land held under Jendela Hikmat Sdn Bhd, a company which the group and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera jointly holds 60 per cent equity interest. The demand for industrial land in this location has been on the uptrend with the completion of UMW’s latest storage and testing plant in Bukit Raja, Klang,” said Boustead.
Rafizi and Selangor Pakatan representatives will be scrutinizing the deal’s fine-print over the weekend and plan to hold another press conference on Monday. “In the afternoon, we will go with some of the pensioners to Bakti Wira’s office to inspect the documents. The pensioners have a right to know what happens to their money,” said Rafizi.
The Black Rose
So far, Ropiaah has not commented on the transaction. Previously, when contacted by Malaysia Chronicle, she had said she would refer Deepak’s allegations to her lawyers.
In his response to the Boustead announcement on Friday, Deepak vowed he would continue with his “revelations”. Deepak has not only exposed Najib’s hand in the Bukit Raja land deal but has revealed that both the Prime Minister and his wife Rosmah had asked him to “facilitate” the withdrawal of a damning statutory declaration made by a private investigator implicating Najib in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder and the Scorpenes corruption case.
Apparently, more and “hotter” scandals are due to be exposed to test the already embattled Najib, who has been facing tremendous pressure from within his own UMNO party to step down and pass the reins to his Deputy Muhyiddin Yassin before calling for general elections.
“The irony is that Raja Ropiaah who ‘stole’ the land from us was paid RM130 million, guess that is real power, isn’t it?” said Deepak, who in a text message to Malaysia Chronicle promised to push on with his tell-all book on Rosmah – ‘The Black Rose’.