The House at the heart of Mara scandal - R Nadeswaran
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | He was a former suburban footballer who had helped manage a
jail for young offenders before starting his own window and door
company in Melbourne. Like all fathers, he doted on his son, Cooper.
During the summer break, the young man asked the father for some money
to travel for an inter-state football carnival. John Bond had nothing to
give – he was broke.
All his money had been used to supply and install windows and doors
in a downtown building in Melbourne in 2013. Having worked on the
development to almost completion, his company, Trubuilt Properties, did
not get paid. Neither did his workers and dozens of other contractors.
They were left in the lurch and the owners of the building slipped away
Bond, having to borrow from his parents to send Cooper for the
carnival in Darwin, was a bitter man after his whole business collapsed.
With other creditors, he went to the Victorian Supreme Court, and
sought the appointment of Andrew Yeo, a senior partner in Pitcher
Partners, who assigned the case to a bright young man, Odie Henzel. Infuriated at Bond’s treatment, Henzel joined the mission to unearth
the secrets of the property – Dudley House, which is now become one of
the three buildings in what is now known as the “Mara Scandal.”
Three Malaysians –Azizi Yom Ahmad, Abdul Ghani Yusof and Dennis Teen
together with Australians, Peter Mills and Chris Dimitriou, had set up a
company – Wanissa Properties – to sell Dudley House to Mara for A$17.8
million but inflate the price to A$22.5 million. Court records show that Henzel discovered an email dated March 2013
in which Mara agreed to buy Dudley House – to be used as a hostel for
Malaysian students – and a payment of “AUS$4,785,000 in the form of
introduction and consultancy fees” would be wired to a mysterious
Singapore shelf company.
Nick McKenzie is an award-winning investigative journalist working for The Age and produces the Four Corners documentary programme for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He caught the whiff as he had already been working on stories of
foreign buyers and “dirty money” being used to push up property prices
in the state of Victoria where Melbourne is located. McKenzie started
his own investigations only to discover a trail of “dirty dealings” by
He roped me in and we worked on the scandal, unearthing a trail of deceit, money laundering and fraud. On June 22 last year, The Age and The Sun
broke the story simultaneously. This was followed by raids carried out
in both countries but to date, no one has been prosecuted. In April, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief
commissioner Azam Baki said 24 witnesses had been called up and officers
visited seven premises, including a law firm, the offices of both Mara
Inc and an appraiser and their associates.
“We need more time to complete this case as it involves another
country. We have put in a request for mutual legal assistance with the
Australian Attorney-General’s office but have yet to receive any
response,” he was quoted as saying.
While the criminal aspect of the case may have ground to a halt, the
case has not ended up in the back burner. In December, Pitcher Partners
as liquidators of Trubuilt filed a civil suit against Azizi and Abdul
Ghani. (The liquidator had previously sued Teen, a Malaysian with Australian
permanent resident status. The case was settled out of court with
undisclosed sums being paid. Records show that Teen was engaged by the
Azizi and Yusuf to act as their agent.)
They are seeking about A$3 million from the duo for payments due for
the renovation work carried out on the building. Yeo alleges that the
“two Datos” (as they are referred to in court papers) were involved in
the renovation and sale of the property to Thrushcross Land Holdings
Limited – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mara for A$22.5 million. It is
learnt that attempts are being made to serve the court papers on Azizi
and Abdul Ghani.
The writ filed at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne further
claims that notwithstanding the contract (sale) price, a sum of A$4.7
million was paid out of the proceeds to three Malaysian companies –
Leuven Capital Sdn Bhd, Optimus Capital Group of Companies Sdn Bhd and
TRR Heritage Sdn Bhd.
These three Malaysian companies, Yeo avers, are directly or
indirectly associated with the interests of Yusof and Azizi and the
former Mara CEO Ahmad Nazim Abdul Rahman and/or other current or former
employees of Mara, Mazrul Haizad Marof and Izaddeen Daud.
It had been previously reported that on Jan 17, 2013, TRR Heritage
had billed Wanissa for A$725,000 for “Marketing and Professional Advise
(sic)”. Two weeks later, Optimus Capital submitted an invoice for
A$675,000 as “advertising and promotion fee” totalling A$675,000. On March 31, 2013, Leuven Capital submitted an invoice for A$2
million for “consultation and advisory fee”. At the end of April, it
submitted yet another invoice for “sales commission” for A$1.35 million.
Australian authorities believe the money paid to the three Malaysian
identities were on the basis of scam invoices. Their investigations
showed that no such fees were payable to Malaysian companies as Wanissa
had made a direct sale to Mara Inc. It was a private sale and there were
no commissions, promotions and advertising fees to be paid for.
Investigations by the police and tax authorities are ongoing in Melbourne.