Tengku Zafrul Aziz and several other ministers representing each of the main parties in the government had protested the move by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to approve the award of a premium plot of land as well as a luxury house for fellow Umno leader Najib Razak, according to sources close to several Cabinet members.
MalaysiaNow has reliably learnt that aside from the finance minister who was grilled in the Dewan Rakyat today over the revelation that property valued at RM100 million would be built for the former leader, several ministers had also made known their strong reservations.
They include Mohamed Azmin Ali from Bersatu, Khairy Jamaluddin (Umno) and Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (PAS), all of whom are key leaders of the parties represented in Ismail’s Cabinet.
When pressed, the source declined to reveal the details of what transpired during the Cabinet discussions.
MalaysiaNow, which first revealed details of the “gift” for Najib last week, has not been able to independently confirm this with the ministers named or their other colleagues in the Cabinet.
At least one minister responded by saying that details of Cabinet meetings are confidential.
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On Nov 12, MalaysiaNow reported that Najib had requested a “privilege” from the government in the form of a 2.8-acre residential property worth RM100 million.
Najib has since confirmed making such a request in a Facebook post attacking former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who raised the matter in the Dewan Rakyat today.
He claimed that he has only been renting a bungalow to house his office.
“My former prime minister’s office is just a bungalow rented in Bukit Pantai. Not a huge complex like Mahathir’s Perdana Leadership Foundation.
“My children are not billionaires like his children,” said Najib, adding that the news of his application was published to coincide with the Melaka state election.
Earlier today, Mahathir raised the matter in the Dewan Rakyat during Zafrul’s speech on the 2022 budget debate.
“I myself was prime minister for 22 years but I never took any land, just my pension.
“Here, though, after working for a while, stealing money, embezzling money, misusing money and misusing power, he is given a present of RM100 million,” he said.
Premium hillock land
The “privilege” to Najib would include the government surrendering the ownership of 120,000 square metres of premium land in a posh part of Kuala Lumpur, as well as the construction of a bungalow on the site at a total cost of RM100 million.
An aerial photograph by MalaysiaNow also pinpointed the property on a plot of land in Bukit Petaling, an exclusive hillock in the heart of the capital city.
Najib’s request was made under the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act.
The act allows three options of special housing privileges for former prime ministers: a government house complete with all amenities, a RM10,000 monthly allowance for staying in one’s own home, or the full ownership of a house gifted by the government.
It is understood that Najib went for the third option, putting in a formal application about a year after his fall from power in the 2018 election.
He again requested for the privilege last year, just months before he was found guilty of corruption charges related to the 1MDB scandal, and subsequently made a site visit of the vacant land early this year.
Since being booted out of power and despite facing dozens of corruption charges, Najib has rebranded himself as the champion of the ordinary man using the “Bossku” tagline through the use of social media platforms.
In the raids that followed his fall from power, authorities confiscated a long list of luxury items from properties linked to him, including jewellery, watches and handbags valued in the hundreds of millions of ringgit which investigators believe are linked to the 1MDB scandal.
Last year, the High Court sentenced him to 12 years in jail and fined him RM210 million after finding him guilty of seven counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power involving RM42 million in funds from former 1MDB unit SRC International.
Last month, he won a bid against the Inland Revenue Board to defer payment of some RM1.7 billion in taxes owed to the government.
In August, some RM114 million in cash confiscated in 2018 was returned to him, following the government’s failure to forfeit the money said to have been misappropriated from 1MDB.