$1.6million in assets restrained in connection to alleged Malaysian official bribery investigation

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has restrained $1.6 million dollars in assets as part of a criminal investigation into the alleged bribery of Malaysian officials by a Melbourne man.

The 68-year-old man is accused of paying Malaysian government officials $4.75 million dollars in bribes in exchange for the purchase of his property developments in Melbourne.

The AFP charged the man with foreign bribery and false accounting offences in July 2020.

The AFP commenced its investigations into the man, his associated companies and Melbourne property developments in February 2015.

It is alleged that the accused acquired three properties around a university campus in Caulfield East and developed them into student hostels through his associated companies.

Upon the completion of the development in 2013, the student hostel was sold to a Malaysian government-owned entity for $22,600,000. It is alleged that the purchase price of the property was inflated from $17,850,000 to $22,600,000.

It is alleged $4.75 million dollars was paid to entities in Malaysia who were either linked to a Malaysian public official or officials, or to agents acting on their behalf, in return for the officials' arranging for the Malaysian government-owned entity to purchase the property.

On 18 August 2020, the AFP, through the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT), obtained restraining orders over two real estate properties in Victoria, each owned by the accused's wife and a company in which she is the sole director. 

Bank accounts held by the accused's wife and the accused's associated companies were also restrained.

The restraining orders also include the restraint of all future management fees that would have gone to the company for the management of the student hostel.

The total approximate value of all restrained property is $1.6million.

The AFP-led CACT, which includes staff from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC, Australian Border Force and the Australian Taxation Office, was formed in 2011 as part of a multi-agency crackdown on criminal assets.

AFP Acting National Manager of Criminal Assets Confiscation Stefan Jerga said the CACT is supported by strong legislative powers and has a large and Australia-wide team of police officers, litigators, financial investigators, forensic accounts and analysts, who are able to target all crime types.

"The CACT's mandate is to deprive individuals of the proceeds and benefits of their crimes, and to punish and deter them from breaching our laws," he said.

"In the past financial year, the CACT has restrained criminal assets in excess of $250 million, a tremendous result across the taskforce's nine-year history."

AFP Commander Financial Crime Paul Osborne said the AFP is determined to investigate, prosecute and confiscate the assets of those Australians who bribe foreign officials.

"The AFP will continue to work collaboratively with international law enforcement partners to discover, disrupt, investigate and prosecute foreign bribery, and to restrain and confiscate their assets," he said.

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