Former leader Najib Razak has requested a “privilege” from the government in the form of a 2.8-acre residential property worth RM100 million in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, receiving the approval of the government but drawing protests from ministers and senior officials, MalaysiaNow can reveal.
It is understood that the former prime minister made the request about a year after his fall from power in the 2018 election, and again last year, just months before he was found guilty of corruption charges related to the 1MDB scandal.
When contacted, a highly placed source in Umno confirmed that Najib had made such a request to the Prime Minister’s Department by invoking a little known act which gives special privileges and allowances to former prime ministers, including the ownership of properties and land belonging to the government.
“He made the request based on the practice that the government of the day is expected to reward its predecessors for their service and contributions to the nation,” the source told MalaysiaNow.
MalaysiaNow has also learnt that the decision to approve Najib’s request did not sit well with several senior government officials and ministers who pointed to his corruption conviction.
There are indications that several ministers including from the Perikatan Nasional coalition as well as Umno leaders from the anti-Najib camp had opposed the move.
A former minister and Bersatu politician expressed shock when told of the decision, saying it was a far cry from the treatment meted out to civil servants convicted of lesser crimes.
“Remember the case of a retired policeman who lost his pension even though he served 30 years in the force? That was over a mere RM700 bribe,” he said.
“And here we have someone who was found guilty over RM42 million,” he added, in a reference to Najib’s charges related to SRC International.
The “privilege” to Najib would include the government surrendering the ownership of the premium land covering more than 120,000 square metres in Bukit Petaling, an exclusive hillock in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, as well as the construction of a bungalow on the site at a total cost of RM100 million.
Under a law introduced in the early 80s, a former prime minister is entitled to choose one of three types of housing allowance as a form of reward from the government.
The facility, as listed under the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act, can be in the form of a government house complete with all amenities, a RM10,000 monthly allowance if he chooses to stay in his own home, or the ownership of a house gifted by the government.
Checks found that Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled twice as prime minister including for 23 years during his first term, has been receiving the RM10,000 monthly allowance, while his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi received a complementary house from the government near the historic Carcosa Seri Negara.
Since his fall from power, Najib has been staying at his private residence in Taman Duta, receiving the RM10,000 allowance, but has now opted to request for a free house from the government.
It is understood that Najib made a formal request to the government early this year following a site visit of the vacant land.
“That property has a market value of about RM20 million more than the one awarded to Abdullah,” said a real estate agent who specialises in exclusive properties in the capital.
Since being booted out of power and despite facing dozens of corruption charges, Najib has rebranded himself as the champion of the ordinary man using the “Bossku” tagline through the use of social media platforms.
In the raids that followed his fall from power, authorities confiscated a long list of luxury items from properties linked to him, including jewellery, watches and handbags valued in the hundreds of millions of ringgit which investigators believe are linked to the 1MDB scandal.
Last year, the High Court sentenced him to 12 years in jail and fined him RM210 million after finding him guilty of seven counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power involving RM42 million in funds from former 1MDB unit SRC International.
Najib, whose appeal against the conviction is still pending, has been under a travel ban since 2018 but recently managed to get back his passport to travel to Singapore later this month.
Last month, he won a bid against the Inland Revenue Board to defer payment of some RM1.7 billion in taxes owed to the government.
In August, some RM114 million in cash confiscated in 2018 was returned to him, following the government’s failure to forfeit the money said to have been misappropriated from 1MDB.