GEORGE TOWN: Taman MBI Desaku in Padang Meha, Kulim, was a housing estate with a difference. The gated community had beautiful landscaping, plenty of recreational activities and an agro park.
It even had a theme park of its own, a fun place for the 2,000 residences and commercial lots in the 100.362ha area.
The park featured 30 figurines and sculptures of characters like ‘Optimus Prime’ from the Transformers, Spiderman and Snow White movies.
Now, the fairy-tale is over and it’s falling apart. The area has been in a state of neglect for the past four years since the collapse of MBI Group.
Residents believe this could be due to the controversy over MBI Group owner Teow Wooi Huat also known as Tedy, who is now being held in Bangkok awaiting deportation.
The mixed housing development project by MBI Group is located along the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway in the state of Kedah.
Civil servant Zaidi Harun, in his late 30s, said he had bought his house in 2017, but saw the place fall into disrepair soon after.
“I am not sure what happened but I heard the owner of the company was involved in money laundering,” he said.
Zaidi said that when he first moved in there, the residential area was beautiful, with wide open spaces.
He said while normal housing estates would be filled with houses, shoplots and gardens, Taman MBI Desaku was more like a fun fair park with recreational activities and attractions for the locals.
Another resident, who requested anonymity, echoed his views but expressed disappointment over the lack of upkeep.
“When we bought the place, we had high hopes due to the promotions by the developer.
“But now, it’s the other way round,” she said, adding that no matter what problem the developer faces, the promises to the house buyers must be fulfilled.
The development also consists of a 4.8ha agro park, as well as a convention centre on a 1.61ha plot.
The housing park also sparked controversy when in August 2017, the Kulim district office ordered its closure and removal of two female, winged statues following complaints lodged by netizens over the display of “God-like” figures there.
The Star visited another building owned by MBI Group in Penang – the M Mall in Jalan Datuk Keramat and found the place deserted, almost like an abandoned building.
There was eerie silence at the building with no one at the mall complex.
A janitor who cleans the area around the mall said the place had been deserted since the start of the pandemic.
“It has been left like this. We only clean the surrounding areas but are not allowed to enter the mall at all,” she said.
The shops that are still there remain shuttered but some workers were waiting to remove branded mattresses displayed on the ground floor.
The Star was told the place will be operated by a company named Wave City Mall, while the owner of the complex remains MBI Group.
During the height of its expansion, MBI and its associates not only ran housing development, malls and hotels, Teow even talked of plans to turn Kulim into a vegetable paradise like Cameron Highlands.
He planned to plant some 30,000 acres (12,140ha) of undeveloped land into farms to “ensure food security” for the country.
Now, he is in the hands of Thai security forces with Malaysian police wanting him repatriated.
PDRM secretary Datuk Noorsiah Mohd Saaduddin said Teow was being investigated under Section 420 for cheating and is currently under the custody of Thai authorities.
In Thailand, Teow has been accused of money laundering over the proceeds from an online gambling venture he had set up in the border township of Danok.
MBI has assets in Danok, a once fast-growing township, whose economic fortunes turned turtle during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thai media have reported that the authorities there raided two MBI hotels in Danok before summoning Teow to the district police headquarters for questioning.
It remains unverifiable if Teow remains under remand or if he was allowed police bail.
The Bangkok Post quoted Surachate Hakparn, assistant to the national police chief, as saying that Teow was charged with laundering money in connection with online gambling in southern Thailand.
The arrest came after investigators reviewed evidence from crackdowns on online gambling dens in Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and other southern provinces.
It noted that the Penang-born entrepreneur built a business empire from elaborate investment schemes with nationals from China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Macau.
MBI Group operates an entertainment complex, including a resort, on a sprawling site at Danok, almost replicating his deeds in Penang and Kulim.