Muslim group calls for Tabung Haji heads to roll

SHAFAQNA – While the movement welcomed Tabung Haji’s step to sell off the land it had bought for RM188.5 million from debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), Abim said this was only the first step to repair the pilgrim fund’s reputation and to protect it from being manipulated by 1MDB.

“The move (to sell the land) can help restore the confidence of depositors towards the management of Tabung Haji.

“However, to ensure that this trust is preserved, the four highest executives in Tabung Haji who are also involved with 1MDB at various positions must step down.

“This includes Datuk Abdul Azeez Rahim, the chairman of Tabung Haji who is seen as having failed to manage the transaction,” Abim president Amidi Abd Manan said.

Tabung Haji’s purchase of the 0.63ha plot in the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) project for the purpose of building a residential tower has been created uproar among its depositors, some of whom withdrew their savings at its branch in Shah Alam on Thursday.

Opposition politicians were quick to note that Tabung Haji was paying far more per square feet (psf) than what 1MDB paid at RM64 psf when it first bought the land from the government, leading some to call the deal a “bailout” given 1MDB’s massive debts.

Umno leaders, the highest being Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, have also criticised the deal as 1MDB’s RM42 billion debt was a well-known fact. Tabung Haji’s risk management committee had also stated that the purchase was a high-risk one.

Another Muslim non-governmental organisation, Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram) also said that the land deal should be frozen and the top executives suspended.

Ikram highlighted the conflict of interest in the positions of Tabung Haji group managing director and CEO Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, his deputy Datuk Johan Abdullah, board member Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah and investment panel member Tan Sri Abdul Samad Alias with the positions they held in 1MDB.

“(This) raises questions as to whether there is conflict of interest in the sale and purchase process of the land and stirs doubt as to whether the interest of Tabung Haji’s depositors were protected in that deal,” Ikram president Dr Mohd Parid Sheikh Ahmad said.

Ikram said the government should hasten the Auditor-General’s probe on 1MDB’s true financial situation as well as freeze all financial transactions between Tabung Haji and 1MDB.

It also wants an immediate stop to all purchases of 1MDB assets by government-linked companies, if such transactions are indeed under way.

1MDB, which is owned by the Finance Ministry, has long been in the spotlight over its debts and opaque operations.

The company said early this year that it was undergoing a strategic review but the involvement of Tabung Haji as a fund to help Muslims save for haj pilgrimages, has touched a raw nerve among many. – May 9, 2015.

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