Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ex-Aussie banker aided Malaysians in Mara property fraud after threats, says report

Published: 15 August 2015 9:50 A
An ex-Australian banker says he felt something was wrong when Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) introduced a British Virgin Island company into the application for a A$22.5 million (RM67.75 million) loan. – The Malaysian Insider pic, August 15, 2015.
An ex-Australian banker says he felt something was wrong when Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) introduced a British Virgin Island company into the application for a A$22.5 million (RM67.75 million) loan. – The Malaysian Insider pic, August 15, 2015. 


A former senior banker at an Australian bank felt something was wrong when the bank's Malaysian government clients introduced a British Virgin Island company into the application for a A$22.5 million (RM67.75 million) loan, Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported today.
Michael Knight, who has since been sacked from the Wespac bank, had wondered why the borrower – Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) – would want to deal via a notorious secretive offshore tax haven.
He was further puzzled to discover that the property they were buying, Dudley House, was significantly overvalued when it was worth A$17 million but the buyers were willing to pay A$22.5 million.
He also reportedly checked the sale prices of several properties in the Melbourne central business district which the Malaysian buyers had bought with loans from other major Australian banks for about A$80 million.
Knight was also told by a property valuer with inside knowledge that the purchase prices of these properties were 'ridiculous'.
The report said that he told the Malaysians they were clearly paying too much, but they brushed off his concerns.
"He immediately suspected the buyers were 'absolutely corrupt'.
"I knew the vendors are taking a super profit and sharing those spoils with the officials," he said, according to SMH.
Knight then agreed to finance the Dudley House deal at a lending rate that protected Wespac's interests.
Hours after striking that deal on March 5, 2013, Knight claimed to have been confronted by a man of Asian appearance outside his home who threatened his family before instructing the banker to transfer the A$50,000 the Malaysians had paid to secure the Westpac loan into Knight's account, and to then withdraw the money and pay him.
Knight speculated that the man must have been working with the Malaysians as a local fixer.
Knight then shifted Malaysian government funds into his personal account in a transaction he repeated several times, where banking records show that he withdrew large amounts of cash, which he said he handed over the the man.
In September, Westpac discovered the transfers and informed the police.
The bank then sacked Knight, who was charged with obtaining property by deception.
Following that in June, a report by Fairfax Media showed that from the A$22.5 million property purchase, A$4.5 million has been skimmed off and returned to senior Malaysian officials.
That was when Knight called the media company to tell his story, where he claimed that he had long ago told Westpac and the police about being coerced and on the Malaysians' alleged corruption and kickbacks.
SMH reported that police did not start their probe until Fairfax Media went to them in late 2014, where at the time, Knight's case had already come before the court.
He was told by a magistrate that if he pleaded guilty to moving the funds into his account, he would most likely would escape a criminal conviction and instead perform community service.
Knight took the deal.
The report said that the federal police is still investigating Westpac's Malaysian government borrowers and their Australian partners over allegations of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion.
Mara's controversial property buy made headlines in Malaysia in June following a report in Australian newspaper The Age, which said that a “top” Mara officer, senior official and former politician had allegedly spent millions of government funds to buy an apartment block in Melbourne in a property scam.
The report alleged that “a group of super-rich Malaysian officials” overpaid by A$4.75 million (RM13.8 million) for an apartment block in the city in 2013.
The trio had allegedly “overbid” for Dudley House, from A$17.8 million to A$22.5 million, with the difference pocketed as bribes back home.
Following the expose, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared thatthe claims would be thoroughly investigated.
The Age and SMH are both owned by Australia’s Fairfax Media group. – August 15, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/ex-aussie-banker-aided-malaysians-in-mara-property-fraud-after-threats-says#sthash.550e7DMH.dpuf

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