Shady land conversions prompt nationwide probe

PETALING JAYA:The government is investigating an alarming rise in fraudulent land transfers and development orders involving a number of local authorities nationwide.

Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said his ministry has launched an investigation in an effort to curb instances of crooked developers who falsify documents to obtain development approvals from municipal and town councils.

This is different from a simple land title fraud involving private land, as the investigations are focused on open spaces and government land meant for utilities and public infrastructure that suddenly end up in the hands of developers.

“The investigations also involve checking the veracity as well as legality of approved developments, including those already under construction,” said Abdul Rahman.

“I don’t have the numbers off hand but it is alarming enough for my ministry to take notice and form a task force to look into it,” he told when asked to comment on a questionable development taking place on what is meant to be an open space in Petaling Jaya.

According to sources, the investigations involve at least 80 projects on public land.

Abdul Rahman said once investigations are complete, the information will be handed over to the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for further action.

He said the urban and rural planning and the land and mines departments under his ministry are involved in the probe following numerous complaints and reports received from the public as well as staff and councillors of local authorities themselves.

“Local authorities sometimes mistakenly issue planning permits for projects based on documents whose origins are suspect, and are submitted by developers.

“We have notified bankers, lawyers and architects at the local authorities to check and ensure that developers are registered with the ministry,” Abdul Rahman said.

He said all developers must obtain a licence from the ministry and all accredited developers are listed on the ministry’s website.

According to Abdul Rahman, with the high demand for housing, many private developers have resorted to unscrupulous methods to ensure their projects have viable purchasers to ensure profits.

“Private developers have introduced various schemes and financial products to buyers.

“Some of the developers have been getting creative, giving cash to potential buyers for 36 months before the keys are handed to them. So we have to monitor these things,” he said, adding that resolving some of these illegal developments is easier said than done.

“In some cases, people have already paid money for their property, so the question is how do we protect the interests of these people?”

Tomorrow: A case study in questionable land use conversion.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 13, 2013.


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