Umno leaders’ land deal cited to justify Penang property policy

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has found a caustic example — a profit-making land-deal involving two senior state Umno leaders — to justify the state’s radical new property policy.

The case involves Umno’s Bukit Mertajam division chief Datuk Musa Sheikh Fadzir and Bukit Gelugor chief Datuk Omar Faudzar whose company bought and then sold Malay land in Kampung Terang, Balik Pulau, with a profit margin of RM5 million.

Incidentally, Musa hit the limelight on Dec 5 when he told the Umno general assembly that the party should discard the “1Malaysia” slogan and replace it with “1Melayu”.

The company, Maison Heights Sdn Bhd, was alleged to have bought the 9.8 acres from 31 Malay landowners in Kampung Terang for a combined price of RM8.5 million in January 2012.

According to the allegation raised by PKR’s Datuk Abdul Halim Husin in July that year, Maison Heights sold the same land to another company for an inflated price of RM13.5 million in May.

(Omar reportedly claimed to have documentation that the purchase from the original landowners was done in October 2010.)

Labelling Musa and Omar as “property flippers”, Lim on Tuesday stressed that the deal saw a marked hike in price after it was sold by the original Malay owners to their company.

“There was a profit of RM5 million,” Lim recounted at a press conference in his office.

“They flipped the property price by almost 60%!”

Lim has pointed out that the state government’s new policy on housing seeks to curb property speculation, cool prices and make housing accessible to low- and medium-income people.

Since the measures were announced earlier this month, they have elicited criticisms from political opponents, including from Umno.

Referring to Musa and Omar, Lim said: “We want to let these flippers know that if they do that, they have to pay (a new levy).”

Also present at the press conference was state executive councillor for housing, Jagdeep Singh.

Lim also said the state executive council had during its last meeting refined the new housing rules for clarity and certainty.

They include:

•    A 2% levy imposed on the seller for property sold within three years from the date of the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) signed from Feb 1, 2014 onwards. The levy is not retrospective and not applicable for affordable housing.

•    Prohibition on sale of public housing — covering low-cost homes (up to RM42,000) and low-medium cost homes (up to RM72,500) — for 10 years from the date of the SPA. Those who wish to sell in that period must appeal to the state, and can only sell to “listed buyers” registered with the state Housing Department who are certified as low-income groups qualified to purchase the homes.

•    Prohibition on sale of affordable housing — classified as houses initially purchased below RM400,000 on the island and RM250,000 on the mainland — for five years from date of the SPA. Those who wish to do so must appeal to the state and sell to “listed buyers” certified as middle-income groups. This five-year rule only covers property transacted on or after Feb 1, 2014, and is not retrospective.

•    Non-citizens can only purchase property in the state priced higher than RM1 million and landed property on the island exceeding RM2 million. All purchases will be subject to a 3% levy on the transacted price for SPA signed on or after Feb 1, 2014. Exemptions are provided for purchases for industry purposes or for “a purpose that promotes employment, education, human talent or promoting Penang as an international and intelligent city”.

Lim said discussions are continuing with the Bar Council, banks, property developers both in and outside Penang, as well as other associations to brief them on the new rules.

The measures will be in force for SPA signed on or after Feb 1, 2014, except for low-cost or low-medium cost housing.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 20, 2013.


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