KOTA KINABALU: Investigators probing into suspect property purchases by Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd (FIC) in recent years may have uncovered more dirt in the company’s dealings.

As the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigators sifted through forensic evidence and called in more people to facilitate probes into FIC’s hotel purchases in Sarawak and the United Kingdom, they smelt a rat in another business deal concluded in 2012.

The commission is looking at Grand Borneo Hotel, a three-star hotel and part of the 1Borneo Hypermall here, which Felda acquired in 2012 for RM86.4 million.

Sources said the latest investigation was to establish if the hotel acquisition here was done in the same manner involving the other two properties in question, the Park City Grand Plaza in Kensington, London, and Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites in Kuching, Sarawak.

Investigations into the two cases centred on the issue of inflated prices as well as possible abuse of power and corruption.

The four-star, 62-room hotel in London was reported to have been bought for RM330 million, allegedly RM220 million over the actual value of RM110 million, while Merdeka Palace, a five-star hotel with 213 rooms, was allegedly bought at a price inflated by RM50 million.

MACC has called in individuals over the purchases, including former Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.

Isa was arrested on Tuesday when he went to the commission’s headquarters to have his statement recorded.

He was remanded on Wednesday for five days.

His former aide, Muhammad Zahid Md Arip, and former FIC chief executive officer Zaid Abdul Jalil were also held on remand.

The commission has also called up FIC’s former and current directors and lawyers to assist in investigations.

Isa, when announcing the acquisition, said the hotel would be managed by a Felda Group subsidiary, Felda Travel Sdn Bhd, which owns seven hotels and resorts in Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Melaka, Perak and Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Isa was appointed Felda Travel Sdn Bhd director on Feb 8, 2011.

The current directors are Datuk Khairil Annuar Aziz, Zakaria Arshad, Abu Bakar Isa
Ramat, Nora Azmin Azmin Radzuan and Mohd Khusairi Abdul Talib.

However, the hotel’s Facebook page states that “Grand Borneo Hotel is managed by FIC
Hospitality Management Sdn Bhd (FICHM), a subsidiary of FIC”.

FIC, on its website (http://fic.net.my), indicated in its “milestones timeline” that FIC “took over the management of Grand Borneo Hotel in July last year”.

“When investigators cracked open the London hotel purchase, information surfaced about Merdeka Palace and that is why we began investigations into that deal.

“It is the same with the Grand Borneo Hotel deal,” the source told the New Straits Times.

It is understood that MACC had been approached to relook into the purchase of a 198-unit apartment block in Bayswater London in 2013 at RM538 million, allegedly much higher than its market value at the time.

A source told the NST that Isa’s wife, Puan Sri Bibi Sharliza Mohd Khalid, was unlikely to be arrested by the commission.

The source said that while her husband was being probed for abuse of power, she was not considered to be linked directly to Isa’s alleged indiscretions.

On why Isa’s assets were not yet frozen considering he is under investigation, the source said investigators had to first establish the sources of his assets and wealth.

“He has a long history, which include early political careers.

“This process should not solely focus on the years he was with Felda,” said the source.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers exiting the Land Public Transport Commission headquarters after searching former Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd chairman Tan Sri Isa Samad’s office. PIC BY ADI SAFRI

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