More shocking revelations to come about Tabung Haji?

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By TMR

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa is expected to table a paper on Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) in Parliament today, revealing more shortcomings at the pilgrim fund.

The report is expected to provide a detailed explanation on TH’s overall operations, which has been for years mired in allegations of suspicious corporate deals, mismanagement and bloated financial figures.

Those allegations had been repeatedly denied by past managements and government.

A recent report by Singapore’s The Straits Times had likened the fund to a Ponzi scheme where deposits were used to pay high dividends.

A comprehensive turnaround plan for the troubled fund is likely to be included in the paper as the attention focuses on the lack of proper regulatory oversight of the institution, which helps thousands of Malaysian Muslims to perform the haj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Focus on the fund heightened in recent weeks after the management filed two police reports against past and current board members and management staff.

TH lodged two reports with the Commercial Crime Investigation Department at the end of last month, implicating former chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, former CEOs Tan Sri Ismee Ismail and Datuk Seri Johan Abdullah, as well as four current top officers.

The first report alleged that RM22 million from Yayasan Tabung Haji — a foundation for the underprivileged formed in 2016 — meant for programmes in 2017 were disbursed for politically-linked activities.

The second report was related to the misrepresentations and the withholding of material information involving TH’s 2012 sale of a 95% stake in PT TH Indo Plantations held by its subsidiaries TH Indopalms Sdn Bhd and TH Indo Industries Sdn Bhd.

The 95% stake was sold to PT Borneo Pacific for US$910 million (RM3.79 billion). TH Indo Plantations owns a total of 83,000ha of palm oil estates in Indonesia.

Four TH senior officers, who were named in the recent police reports filed by management, have gone on garden leave.

They are COO Datuk Adi Azuan Abdul Ghani, CFO Datuk Rozaida Omar, legal advisor Hazlina Mohd Khalid and senior GM for corporate services and real estate Rifina Md Ariff.

None of the people named in the two police reports have been charged of any offences or crimes.

The new team, appointed in mid-July this year, is led by former Securities Commission Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Mohd Nor Yusof and former Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd CEO Datuk Seri Zukri Samat.

Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz and PKR politician Rafizi Ramli had previously warned of the state-owned fund’s ill reserves.

Zeti pointed out that the fund had been paying out higher dividends than it could afford since 2012. In 2015, she reminded TH it had 98 sen in assets for every ringgit of liabilities.

Section 22 of the TH Act states it cannot pay dividends and bonuses to its contributors if its assets are worth less than its liabilities or if it is not profitable.

But those warnings had been disregarded by the previous government and ministers who were in charge of the fund. TH continued to pay dividends of between 5.75% and 8.25% in the last five years.

Recent reports suggested that TH’s 2016 assets were RM4 billion short of deposits and the management cooked its books to justify the dividend payout.

The new management wants TH’s deposit-taking to become a regulated business under the central bank.

It is believed that the new management is expected to announce more unearthed revelations in the coming weeks.

TH is already looking to evaluate its properties abroad, located mainly in the UK and Mecca, to determine if the prices paid for the assets were justified.

The Malaysian Reserve had reported that TH’s investment value in listed firms had dwindled by as much as RM1.4 billion in the last eight months. The fund had 9.05 million depositors as at July 31, 2018.