Tony Pua denies making threats against property developer in previous role as finance minister’s aide

·6-min read
Damansara MP Tony Pua speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur August 5, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Damansara MP Tony Pua speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur August 5, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — DAP MP Tony Pua today denied that he had ever “threatened” the developer of the Exchange 106 skyscraper at the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) in his previous role as the finance minister’s aide as alleged, adding that he had never met or spoken with the person in question.

Pua was seeking to clarify a news report by portal MalaysiaNow which had quoted former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s upcoming memoir, noting that the excerpts mentioned cast negative aspersions on him and was clearly aimed at him even though he was not specifically named.

While not having the actual book — which has yet to be released for sale, Pua sought to immediately respond to the allegations against him which he described as “falsehoods”.

Pua explained that he was appointed then finance minister Lim Guan Eng’s political secretary in 2018 after Pakatan Harapan won the general election, and that he worked at Lim’s instructions and assisted him with his responsibilities as a minister.

Responding to Dr Mahathir reportedly claiming in the book as saying a “DAP adviser” had threatened a property developer who faced financial problems in a joint venture project with the government to develop a multi-billion ringgit complex in Kuala Lumpur, Pua however said this was a “completely false allegation”.

“It is also not the first time Mahathir has made the allegation. He had summoned Lim back in November 2018 to his office to reprimand him for my purported actions.

“The problem is, I could never have ‘threatened’ the property developer because I have never personally met or spoken to the developer!” Pua, who is DAP national publicity secretary and Damansara MP, wrote in a statement today.

Pua then explained the events and details relating to the Exchange 106 project in 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) legacy development Tun Razak Exchange, with Exchange 106’s developer being the company Mulia Property Development Sdn Bhd which was part of Indonesia’s Mulia International Group.

Pua said the Exchange 106 project was estimated to cost around RM3 billion with RM1.8 billion to be funded with a loan, but noted that the developer could not secure the funds from any financial institution.

Pua said that former finance minister and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had in 2016 agreed to provide the required RM1.8 billion funding through a government guarantee in exchange for the Finance Ministry (MoF) having a temporary 51 per cent ownership of the project, describing this move as a bailing out of the project.

Pua said Lim was as then finance minister briefed by then Deputy Treasurer-General Datuk Asri Hamidon and TRX City Sdn Bhd officials about the project, including issues involving regulatory compliance and financial irregularities as well as a specific clause in MoF’s shareholder agreement with Mulia.

According to the call option clause, MoF’s 51 per cent share of the project would be “returned” to Mulia in exchange for a fee not exceeding RM200 million if Mulia repays the RM1.8 billion loan between 24 to 36 months, while MoF would have the right to buy the remaining 49 per cent share from Mulia for RM1 if Mulia fails to repay the RM1.8 billion within 36 months, Pua said.

“This Call Option clause protects MoF to a certain extent in the event of Mulia default,” Pua explained.

Pua said the finance minister then decided that all regulatory compliance issues and irregularities are rectified before further drawdowns are released for the project, saying this was “clearly the right thing to do to protect MoF’s 51 per cent interest and the tax-payers’ monies in the project”.

While saying he was tasked by the finance minister then to monitor the progress and resolution of such issues, Pua clarified that all negotiations and discussions with Mulia was led by Asri (who is the current Treasurer-General) and TRX City officials.

“I was never present in their discussions,” he said.

Pua said Mulia’s ultimate owner Djoko Tjandra was furious that a due diligence as provided under the shareholder’s agreement was being requested and had allegedly met with Dr Mahathir to protest against MoF’s actions, adding that Dr Mahathir was then furious when told by Djoko Tjanda that Pua had “threatened” to take over Mulia’s 49 per cent share for only RM1 after Mulia had already invested more than RM1.1 billion in the project.

Pua said Lim had defended his role and wrote several times to explain the issues to Dr Mahathir.

Djoko Tjanda or Pak Joe is an Indonesian who was a wanted fugitive, and a private investigation report commissioned by TRX City on Mulia International in 2015 which confirmed his criminal fugitive status in Indonesia, Pua said.

Pua added that Pak Joe is now in jail in Indonesia for fraud and corruption after Interpol police arrested him in Kuala Lumpur in 2020, with senior officers in Indonesia also found guilty of conspiring with and accepting bribes from him.

“These documents were all presented to Mahathir. The Exchange106 case was also deliberated several times in the Cabinet between November 2018 to May 2019, and occasionally thereafter. Ultimately, the Cabinet fully endorsed the position and actions to be taken by the MoF.

“As an elected Member of Parliament for Damansara, I am proud of the little role I’ve played in the above case because I have helped to protect the interest of Malaysian tax-payers and ensured that the project is completed without the government being short-changed,” he said, referring to Najib’s bailout of the private project with a government guaranteed RM1.8 billion funding as an abuse of the latter’s position as finance minister.

Pua said Dr Mahathir could have instead chosen to record how his then Pakatan Harapan government safeguarded Malaysians’ interests.

“It is unfortunate that he prefers to believe the words of an extremely crooked foreign tycoon, previously convicted of cheating hundreds of billions of rupiah from Bank Bali in 2009; and subsequently convicted again for forgery in 2020 and bribery in 2021.

“Mahathir should have been proud that his government has successfully protected the interest of the rakyat in this multi-billion ringgit scandal and recorded that achievement in his memoirs. Instead he has chosen to be petty and wrote about how he was able to ‘put a stop’ to the lowly political secretary of the Minister of Finance,” Pua wrote.

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