June 25, 2015 / 6:04 AM / in 2 years

Australian police raid Melbourne properties in foreign bribery probe

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police raided a home and a business in central Melbourne on Thursday as part of a foreign bribery investigation reportedly involving Malaysian government officials and a multi-million dollar property deal.

Malaysia said on Wednesday it planned to investigate allegations that its officials spent millions of dollars of government funds to buy an apartment block in Melbourne at an inflated cost and allegedly received kickbacks for the transaction.

Australian Federal Police confirmed two premises in Melbourne were raided as part of “Operation Carambola”, which is a probe into foreign bribery allegations. Australia’s Fairfax Media reported the raids were directly linked to the Malaysian corruption allegations.

Fairfax reported earlier this week that the officials had overpaid by A$4.75 million ($3.66 million) for an apartment block, Dudley International House, bought in 2013 to house Malaysian students studying in Melbourne.

The alleged kickbacks went to Malaysian firms that had close links with a senior official at government agency MARA, the report said. MARA was originally set up to drive development and provide financial assistance to ethnic Malays.

MARA is conducting an internal audit and assisting an investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, officials of the investment agency told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

The Australian government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has been roiled by corruption allegations surrounding Malaysian state-linked entities, including the debt-ridden investment fund 1MDB.

His opponents, chief among them influential former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, have repeatedly called for Najib to step down over 1MDB and other issues.

($1=1.2962 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Michael Perry

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