No conflict of interest in Tabung Haji land deal, says fund chairman

KUALA LUMPUR (May 9): Lembaga Tabung Haji chief executive officer (CEO) Tan Sri Ismee Ismail had stayed out of all negotiations in the funds' purchase of a plot of land from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to avoid conflict of interest, the pilgrims' fund chairman said today as criticism of the deal narrowed in on personalities holding top positions in both funds.

Tabung Haji chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (pictured) said that Ismee, who also sits on the 1MDB advisory board, "abstained" from the entire process of Tabung Haji's RM188.5 million purchase of a plot of land at Tun Razak Exchange (TRX).

Another senior Tabung Haji executive and two board members, all of whom also hold 1MDB related positions, however, did not abstain as they did not hold decision-making positions in the state-owned investment arm, Azeez said.

Tabung Haji's deputy CEO Datuk Johan Abdullah, who is also chairman of 1MDB subsidiary Edra Global, was the leading figure in all negotiations leading to the fund's purchase of the land, which is part of the Tun Razak Exchange project.

Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah is a Tabung Haji board member and also an 1MDB advisory board member, while Tan Sri Abdul Samad Alias, who is on the Tabung Haji investment panel, also sits on the 1MDB advisory board.

"Our concept was that if one board member did not agree, we would reject a proposal. So all members, except Ismee, participated in the whole process," Azeez said.

"Except for Ismee, the others were not in the capacity for decision-making," he added.

Azeez also justified the disparity in price between 1MDB's buying value of the land and the price they sold it off to Tabung Haji for.

"When 1MDB bought the land, there were squatters, and many issues with infrastructure and utilities," he said.

"Now, there is even a development order ready, we just had to buy the land and develop it," he added.

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