Tabung Haji chairman speaks during a press conference on Tabung Haji and 1MDB land. Pix by Aizuddin Saad

KUALA LUMPUR: The plot of prime land in the Kuala Lumpur city centre which Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) purchased from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is to be sold to the highest of three bidders within the next two weeks, its chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim announced today.

Azeez said the LTH board had unanimously agreed upon the sale of the 0.63ha plot of land, located at the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX), in a meeting attended by all 11 board members this morning, although a similar meeting last night had seen the board unanimously agree to proceed with plans to develop the land as everything was above board, despite criticism from various quarters over the purchase.

"This morning, I received a call from the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Najib Razak). I must stress that this was not a directive, but he advised us to sell the plot of land seeing that the issue had created too much defamatory rumours.

“The board met this morning and we decided that in the best interest of the public and Tabung Haji depositors that we heed that advice," said Azeez.

The land which was purchased at RM188.5 million will now be sold to the highest of three interested bidders with LTH set to make a minimum profit of RM5 million.

Azeez said there was no criteria set on the bidders being Muslim or not.

"The process of this purchase had adhered to all our regular procedures in procurement and investment. It was scrutinised by the board since the proposal was first made in April 2013. Everything was above board and we decided that this was a worthwhile investment which would profit LTH. It was purely a commercial decision," said Azeez.

He stressed that Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, who is LTH chief executive officer and managing director as well as 1MDB director, had abstained from being part of discussions regarding the purchase as he was privy to information from both parties. These matters, he said, were overseen by deputy chief executive officer Datuk Johan Abdullah.

"There was no political motivation in the purchase of this land, but as it turned out LTH has been dragged into this issue by those who have politicised it. It is an investment in property, the same as investments we have made both locally and abroad. It doesn't in any way have an effect on the dividends or deposits of the public in LTH.

"In fact, it is such investments which allow us to provide dividends and subsidise pilgrimage for our depositors. We also reassure our depositors that none of their money is affected as their deposits are guaranteed by the government. This will not stop us from making further investments in real estate for the benefit of our depositors."

Azeez said LTH will continue to invest in other properties, stating that the fund still has an allocation of more than RM5 billion in which they can explore further real estate investments.

Bloggers had previously revealed documents believed to be from LTH pertaining to the purchase, and Azeez said the matter had called for an internal investigation.

"It was stated that these documents were made available to them by LTH. But this is not the case and police reports have been lodged against these bloggers," said Abdul Azeez.

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