Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Revealed: Najib opted for most expensive ‘privilege’ after turning down ‘cheaper’ land

Despite being offered another premium spot in the capital, the former leader set his eyes on a bigger plot which would double the cost for the government.

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Najib Razak opted for the most expensive land on a list of housing allowances offered by the government to the ex-prime minister, it has been learnt following further investigations by MalaysiaNow into the controversy of the RM100 million home for the convicted former leader.

It is also understood that Najib could have settled for a monthly rental allowance of RM10,000 if he chose to remain in his current Taman Duta bungalow, or to stay in a government home complete with amenities without any ownership transfer.

“But he personally sent in an application for the more costly option of the government surrendering a plot of land. In addition, he also opted for the government to construct a house on that land,” a source familiar with laws on the maintenance of top government officials and senior civil servants told MalaysiaNow.

It is understood that Najib personally visited the site before officially making known his desire for the property early this year, even as he was busy accusing the administration of Muhyiddin Yassin of ignoring the welfare of Malaysians affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

His request for the land only received serious attention after the appointment of Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who replaced Muhyiddin following a coup engineered by Najib and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi with the backing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

The highlighted part of an aerial picture of Bukit Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, the location of a plot of land where a free house for Najib Razak has been proposed at a total cost of RM100 million to the government.

However, the move drew protests from within Ismail’s own Cabinet, including from senior ministers Tengku Zafrul Aziz and Mohamed Azmin Ali, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as well as Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

Yesterday, Najib defended the gift as legal after coming under fire from Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the Dewan Rakyat.

The Pekan MP said he had picked one of three options of properties offered by the government.

“It’s a government land near Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, because my family feels the location is most suitable for them,” he said, before listing what he claimed were his contributions to the nation during his nine-year administration.

Najib also denied that the property would cost the government RM100 million, adding that news of his request for the land was timed to coincide with the election in Melaka where he has been busy campaigning for Barisan Nasional candidates.

‘Cheaper’ land, lower cost

An investigation by MalaysiaNow, which first revealed the decision to gift Najib with the property, pinpointed the land to a plot nestled in Bukit Petaling, one of Kuala Lumpur’s most expensive real estate pieces.

Measuring about 120,000 sq ft or 2.8 acres, the vacant land is bigger than the size of two football fields.



A source said Najib chose that land over another offer, also located in a premium neighbourhood, which would have cost the government only half the amount.

“That land which he rejected is somewhere off Jalan Duta, and it measures two-thirds the size of the land that Najib wanted.

“By current market price, the land alone would have cost the government some RM20 million less than what he has chosen,” the source said.

Checks showed that the “cheaper” option offered to Najib had a market value of about RM45 million, with a double storey bungalow already in place on the site.

“A high-end refurbishing and modification job would have cost the government between RM3 and RM5 million, tops,” a home renovation contractor said when asked for a rough estimate.

That would bring the total cost of providing a free home for Najib to less than RM50 million.

MalaysiaNow previously reported that the government had agreed to spend RM100 million gifting a property for Najib under the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act.

The hefty sum takes into account the market value of the land as well as the cost of constructing the house.

Checks with several real estate agents specialising in luxury properties in Kuala Lumpur showed that the vacant lot in Bukit Petaling chosen by Najib could fetch close to RM70 million in current real estate value.

“So if the government agrees to spend RM100 million, that would mean the house would cost RM30 million,” said one luxury property specialist based in Bukit Damansara.

Since MalaysiaNow first revealed the controversial gift for Najib on Nov 12, social media has been abuzz with Malaysians condemning the decision, many of whom cite the latter’s corruption conviction last year.

After being booted out of power in 2018 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.

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