Felda Chief’s son quizzed on London luxury hotel buy


(Daily Express) – Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) group Chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad’s son was questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over the purchase of a luxury hotel in London, it was reported.

Quoting a source, the Malaysiakini report said it was not an arrest but that his statement was taken down to assist in investigations on the RM330 million purchase of the Grand Plaza Kensington.

MACC’s Director of Special Operations, Datuk Bahri Mohamad Zin, refused to confirm or deny that Isa’s son had been called in, the report added.

It was reported earlier that a senior Felda officer attached to a Felda subsidiary, Felda Investment Corporation (FIC), has been remanded by the authorities since Sunday. Also apprehended was an alleged middleman to the deal, Malaysiakini reported.

In December last year, FIC announced that it had acquired the Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel in London to “diversify its investment assets”.

The acquisition made it the first London property for FIC and the second for Felda.

Isa had also said then that the newly acquired hotel served to complement Felda’s existing property, the Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments in Bayswater, another hot spot for Malaysians visiting London.

“While the Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments’ main appeal is for visitors with (their) families or [those] travelling in a group, the Grand Plaza Kensington aims to attract guests who are looking for a luxurious yet affordable accommodation,” he had said.

Isa had also said that the acquisition of Grand Plaza Kensington brings the number of hotels and resorts owned by Felda to 12.

The Grand Plaza Kensington is a four-star hotel with 62 units of guest rooms and two units of three-bedroom serviced apartments, located at Lexham Gardens within the exclusive district of Kensington and Chelsea.

It is also close to Western London’s popular shopping street, the Kensington High Street.

Felda’s overseas buying spree was raised by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad earlier this year, when he urged Putrajaya to appoint external auditors for all its agencies to allay public concerns about the billions being spent on investments across the world.

“We see entities such as Felda, EPF, Tabung Haji spending billions in acquiring foreign properties while others such as MAHB (Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd) and Petronas have bought shares in airports and Canadian ventures also involving huge sums of money,” the former PM had written in his blog.

In October 2013, Malaysian realtors had said that state-linked Malaysian firms were buying up London properties at inflated prices in an otherwise stagnant United Kingdom property market, raising fears that a meltdown could wipe away millions in public funds.

Several realtors had then pointed to Felda’s £97.9 million (RM495 million) deal for the 198-unit Grand Plaza service apartments in Bayswater, London, as an example of an overpriced buy, saying that high-end real estate agents Savills and Knight Frank had only valued the property at £80 million (RM408 million) in the past few years. Back then, The Malaysian Insider had reported that the deal was being investigated by the MACC and had been reported to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).