Fuminori Murahashi intends to submit a bid if a second tender is called for the Changi Motorsports Hub project
SG Changi boss still keen on motorsports hub -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

THE businessman overseeing the beleaguered Changi Motorsports Hub has accepted that he has to give up on the project for now.

But Fuminori Murahashi said he intends to submit a bid if a second tender is called for the project, the centrepiece of which is a permanent motor track that can host any kind of race except Formula One.

'I want to continue to be involved in this project, or contribute to motorsports here,' Murahashi, the chairman of the Japanese-backed SG Changi consortium, told reporters through an interpreter yesterday. 'If there's another tender and I can find a partner, I would consider working on another bid.'

They were his first comments since the Singapore Sports Council announced on Dec 12 that it was working towards a mutual termination of the contract to design, finance, build and manage the $380-million hub for 30 years.

The 51-year-old, who has sunk in more than $55 million of his funds including about $35 million for the land, had initially hoped that he could put in an appeal last week, said sources.

But the SSC has since confirmed it would not resurrect the deal with SG Changi even if the latter managed to raise the necessary funds.

Murahashi's main business is constructing temples and shrines in Japan, and this is his first time doing business in Singapore and building a motor track.

He admitted that it has been a 'troubling' experience so far.

The hub had been beset with woes since SG Changi trumped bids from two other contenders in March last year. Soon after work began a year ago, reports emerged that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) was probing alleged irregularities in the tender process.

Murahashi had decided to tip off the CPIB, after being alerted to an e-mail exchange between a member of his staff and an SSC official.

The e-mail had allegedly contained a job offer with SG Changi to the official if the consortium won the bid.

SSC deputy director Fan Chian Jen, who was in charge of the project, left the council in the wake of the investigations.

News of the CPIB probe spooked investors who had committed funding. In January, construction ground to a halt, when SG Changi missed a payment instalment to a piling company.

The hub was supposed to be completed by the end of this month, but its future is now uncertain.

Once the contract between the SSC and SG Changi has been terminated - expected to be within a fortnight - the SSC will consult market experts to gauge interest before deciding if a second tender should be called.

In the interview, Murahashi, who said his dream has always been to build a motor track, painted a picture of how he had been a 'victim of circumstances' in the past 18 months.

He claimed that he was the only one of four original shareholders who paid up for his shares - totalling $3 million - initially. He was only supposed to be in charge of construction.

The other three - fellow Japanese Genji Hashimoto, Singaporean Eddie Koh and Singapore permanent resident Thia Yoke Kian - were supposed to oversee other aspects such as financing and getting international races in. They have since left.

 

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