Gangster contractors

GEORGETOWN - Contractors, some with links to triads, are forcing buyers of high-rise property in Malaysia to carry out renovation works.

Many of them charge a premium, sometimes up to 20 per cent more than normal contractors.

If the buyers insist on hiring contractors from outside, they are compelled into buying materials such as sand, bricks, cement and steel cages.

Alternatively, the buyers can pay a "settlement" to bring in outside contractors.

Most buyers dare not lodge complaints with the police for fear of retaliation from triad members.

With developers turning a blind eye to the issue, the so-called "in-house" contractors have become more brazen in intimidating buyers.

Although such practices could be traced back to the 1990s, the mushrooming of condominium projects in Penang has made matters worse.

It has been estimated that more than RM10bil worth of projects had been undertaken on the island over the past 18 months.

During a check by The Star at several newly completed apartment blocks in Relau, a man was seen manning a makeshift counter near the lifts.

He said his "company" was selling sand, bricks, cement and steel cages, and providing other services such as hacking and electrical wiring.

When told that the unit owner wanted to bring in his own contractor to carry out tiling works, the stern-looking man said: "You can still buy the steel cages or other materials from us. We will handle your waste as well."

Another in-house contractor, who declined to be named, claimed that he could offer better prices for construction materials.

"We get bulk discounts from suppliers. If we buy 100 steel cages and you buy only one, who will get a better price?

"Besides, we also know the unit layout better than anyone else. We know where the electrical wiring is hidden in the wall. We also know where to hack inside the house," he said.

Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Alex Ooi said his group had encountered numerous cases of such triad activities in its projects in the South-West district over the past few years.

"This is because the district is a hot spot for the development of reasonably priced properties.

"Whenever we have such problems, the police are very quick to come in to arrest the culprits.

"We have also tightened the security for our projects in the district and this has reduced such incidents," he added.

SP Setia Bhd property (North) general manager Khoo Teck Chong said the group's projects in the South-West district had never faced such problems because of its tight security system.

Penang police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi urged unit owners to lodge reports or call the police hotline at 04-269 1999.

"We do not condone such actions. We need unit owners to provide us with information so that we can act.

"Everyone has the right to choose their own contractors or material suppliers," he said.

DCP Rahim gave his assurance that the identity of whistle-blowers or affected victims would be protected.