Corruption: Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal enters Rogues Gallery in 2015

January 1, 2016

Corruption: Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal enters Rogues Gallery

by Siobhan O’Grady

Kalam and Corruption

A goat and cash exchanged for shortened sentences in Ghanaian prisons. International soccer games that were bought and sold. Rolexes and vacation clubs traded for Chinese business deals. In 2015, massive corruption scandals embroiled world leaders, high court judges, and the men who run the world’s soccer industry, among many others.

Below, Foreign Policy chronicles some of the most egregious.


Soccer’s world-governing body is so entangled in a massive web of corruption that it’s hard to pinpoint where it begins or ends, or even just how much money is involved. In May, after a lengthy U.S.-led investigation, the American Justice Department indicted 14 FIFA associates and officials, both current and former, who the FBI believed to be involved in “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption. Seven months later, in December, another 16 officials were charged with involvement in bribery and corruption. On top of all that, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Union of European Football Associations President Michel Platini were both given eight year suspensions from soccer activities this month over $2 million paid to Platini by Blatter in 2011. The U.S. investigation was initially intended to figure out whether FIFA officials took bribes to allow Russia and Qatar to host upcoming World Cups. But as evidence mounted, the inquiries expanded into a much more expansive probe, revealing what prosecutors say are years of corrupt practices, including bribery and game-selling, from officials in Europe, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean.


When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took over the Presidency in May, it didn’t take him long to announce that he estimated some $150 billion had gone missing in Nigeria over the past ten years. The former military leader vowed he would do his best to find out where that money ended up, and in November he claimed to have traced at least a small fraction of it back to his predecessor’s administration. On November 17, he ordered the arrest of Sambo Dasuki, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Advisor, for dipping his hands into the defense budget and allegedly stealing some $2 billion from the country’s fund to fight Boko Haram, the extremist group terrorizing Nigeria’s northeast. According to Buhari, Dasuki awarded phantom contracts for military supplies, including helicopters, fighter jets, bombs, and ammunition. But the equipment never arrived, and the new Nigerian administration is convinced Dasuki pocketed the money.

Malaysia–1MDB and Superstar Najib Razak

Najib the Wolf of WSJ

The RM2.6 Billion Man from Malaysia

When U.S. President Barack Obama visited Malaysia in November, 2015 he had the pleasure of arriving in the middle of an awkward corruption scandal. Four months earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that some $700 million of state funds had ended up in Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank account — which was not where they were supposed to go. That tied Razak directly to a probe into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a government-owned development company that was supposed to turn Kuala Lumpur into a thriving financial hub. Najib has disparaged the Journal’s reports as inaccurate, claiming instead that the money in his account came from personal donations. But the reports came after the fund had already fallen behind on its payment schedule. Obama claims he raised the question of corruption in a private meeting with Najib, but publicly said only that the government should aim to be “more accountable, more open, more transparent, to root out corruption.”

Honduras and Guatemala

This spring and summer, protests erupted in the Central American countries of Honduras and Guatemala, as angry activists demanded the resignations of the countries’s two presidents. In Guatemala, the outrage was linked to an international probe that discovered how customs duties were lowered for bribes. And in Honduras, the former director of the Honduran Social Security Institute was accused, along with some of his top officials, of awarding $200 million of contracts to phantom companies. Some of that money is allegedly tied to President Juan Hernandez’s political party.

Ghanaian Judges

For two years, investigative journalist and 2015 Foreign Policy Global Thinker Aremeyaw Anas worked on a film based on footage he gathered prowling the halls of Ghanaian courthouses, pretending to be the relative of accused criminals and offering bribes to judges in exchange for shortened prison sentences. Wearing a secret camera, Anas claims to have caught 32 judges accepting offers of money and even livestock. In October, after Anas published his documentary, Ghana suspended seven top judges in what the country’s judicial council labeled a “prima facie case of stated misbehavior against them.” That “misbehavior” was what was documented by Anas, whose journalistic mission is to “name, shame, and jail” corrupt officials. And in this case, he claims he has hundreds of additional hours of footage to further prove the justices’ complicity. In December, 21 of the 32 indicted judges were reportedly asked to step down.

United Nations General Assembly

According to the prosecutors who filed charges against him in October, John Ashe, former President of the U.N. General Assembly and one-time U.N. Ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, knew how to use diplomacy to make a quick buck. The October complaint claims that Ashe took part in a $1 million bribery scheme with a Chinese businessman who wanted to build a multi-billion dollar U.N. conference center in Macau. But that wasn’t the end of his shady deals with Chinese businessmen:  Ashe allegedly pocketed upwards of $800,000 in bribe money to support Chinese business deals on Antigua, then shared some of it with the Antiguan prime minister. And prosecutors say Ashe got a lot more than just the extra pocket money out of all his wheeling and dealing. According to the complaint, his under the table deals helped him pay $40,000 in BMW bills, build a $30,000 basketball court in his private home, collect $54,000 in Rolex watches, and join a vacation club for $69,000 — among other luxuries.


17 thoughts on “Corruption: Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal enters Rogues Gallery in 2015

  1. At least, we are good at something–at tipuing the Malaysian public with impunity. In all other endeavours, we are laggards. For this we must give an Oscar to UMNO and its corrupt culture. Prime Minister Najib should be the winner. As people say, when the fish head stinks, the rest of the body stinks as well. It is regrettable that I have to publish my first piece in 2016 with a report on Corruption.–Din Merican

  2. Dato’ Din Merican

    Ciri ciri orang munafiq ada 3 iaitu:-
    1. Apabila bercakap ia berdusta
    2. Apabila ia berjanji ia mungkiri
    3. Apabila di beri amanah ia khianati

    Dalam negara kita ada seorang pemimpin yang dengan terang terang ia menunjukkan ciri ciri tersebut tanpa ada rasa segan silu.

    Nauzubillah himin zalik.
    Alhamdullilah, kita bukan macam dia. Dah lah dia dari keluarga yang berwawasan, penipu yang ulung pula. Sudah dah tu. Cukup makan, tetapi dia nak balon (bahasa Kedah) habis habisan lagi. Selamat Tahun Baru dan mari lah kita berjuang untuk maruah negara dan bangsa kita. Apabila kita cakap yang benar dia nak tangkap kita pula. Manusia apa macam ni. –Din Merican

  3. But again our opposition Members of Parliament appear to be on silent mode. Just imagine one even said that it would be futile or something to that effect. The people’s response it would be futile to vote for them.

  4. Din, mcm2 nama dh org panggil dia, segala maki hamun dan cemohan dh dilontarkan kpdnya, termasuk ank bini sekali, dan baru2 ni ibu bapak yg tak berdosa dah terkena tempias pula, tp tak de kesan. Dia buat dekk je. Ini semua tak de kesan.Saya tak nak tambah apa2 melainkan berdoa minta dia dan isteri ingat MATI.

  5. Happy New Year to semua rakyat Malaysia n specially to keluarga Din Merican for his blogs. I don’t dare to hope for anything good that the gov is going to do. I hope that it ain’t going to be more worst than the previous year. With 1Mental Disorder Bhd troubling the country, who dare to hope for any better.

  6. 1MBD rationalisation plan was completed yesterday as PM has promised. Details are sketchy apart from buying government-owned land dirt cheap and selling it for a mind-boggling price without doing anything to the property. Flipping is the name of the game. But the core issue of what happens to the missing money remains unanswered. When this basic question is asked one risks being locked up. Instead one is supposed to believe his rosy new year promise? This is twisted logic in a strange land. It appears to survive and prosper in this make-believe land, one must hail the Furher or risks being marginalised or worse……………………………………

  7. Why not sell the entire Labuan island to China?
    Semua puas hati — win-win solution.

    China can then strengthen its claim to the
    South China Sea, the $$$ can be used to settle
    all the 1MDB debt.

    Unhappy people in Labuan — the people? They don’t count.
    Just like the unhappy people of Kuantan area and their
    red rivers and red sea.

  8. Dato Happy New Year

    You are only partially correct to say that we are good at tipuing Malaysian public, even the most powerful man on earth, the US president was tipued for a long time before he realised it and not to mention the many world leaders who are also being tipued.

    So you see, Malaysia Boleh is not an empty slogan afterall.

  9. Steven

    Obama is just another hypocritical USA president
    He knew but tppa and containing China are priorities
    Don’t u ever get conned by his rhetoric on democracy and integrity
    A lot of hot air when he speaks

  10. Quote: “Unhappy people in Labuan”

    Hey, you never know, they may be happier under mainland Chinese rule. The pirates from Philippines would not dare step foot there.

  11. Less the urbanites just sigh with frustrations at their rural cousins, Lee Kuan Yew was right to say Once the top core is corrupted, ALL meaning EVERYTHING is LOST. It’s not just UMNO-PAS bastions that need to learn this, the most guilty is Sarawak and Sabah

  12. From the blog “Outsyed the Box”

    Friday, January 1, 2016

    Najib’s New Year Message : Malaysians should learn ‘to use second hand goods’.

    Folks, have you heard the joke about thrifty Jews recycling toilet paper? Or the one about the Scots renting a birthday cake? Or saving ‘underwear’ money?

    Now Najib Razak says if Malaysians cannot afford essentials and necessities, why not we use second hand items? I quote from the NST : ‘And how about learning to use secondhand items.’

    Still dont believe me? I took a picture of the paragraph on pg 14 of today’s NST (Friday 1st Jan. 2016). Here it is :

    Folks, for those of you who may be interested the Indonesian guys do sell second hand clothes in Chow Kit.

    Have you heard of a ‘bundle shop’? They sell used clothes in bundles, sometimes by the kilo. The Indons buy them I think.

    This is what our Prime Minister is suggesting – that Malaysians have now reached the same status as the Indons and Rohingyas. Banglas do not buy used clothes. Depa ada class lebih sikit.

    What if the second hand underwear, pants and shirts have been worn by the kafir people, you know like the Chinese and the Indians……….

    ……… Hassan Malek said dont eat chicken if it is too expensive. Everyone said he was stupid.

    Mat Maslan said if you cant make ends meet with one job, then get two jobs. Mat Maslan has a genetic deficiency.

    Now the PM says if the cost of living is too high then use second hand stuff.

    Today on the MAS flight, I was forced to read the New Straits Times because I had little choice.

    Anyway on the front page there was a report about the PM’s new year message. Also on pages 2, 3 and 4. The the speech was reproduced in full on pages 14 and 15. (Thats why the NST cannot attract serious ad revenue – you carry so much trash).

    Anyway since the flight was over two hours I forced myself to read the guy’s new year message………..

    ………. Anyway back in the apartment I tried searching for the same news on the NST Online. I could not find it !! It was not in ‘Frontpage’, not in ‘Nation’ and I could not find page 14 and 15. Or they just make it so difficult to find it.

    I think the NST is aware that no one wants to read Najib’s crappy speech. And they either pulled the story or buried it inside somewhere in the online edition.

    Anyway, here is a gist of the …… speech and you will see that it is pure self gratification. Syiok sendiri.

    He says, “This is the year when Malaysians go green, live cheaply..”

    So Malaysians, learn to use second hand goods and learn to live cheap ok.

    The Prime Minister thinks this is a brilliant suggestion because in the next line he does take a swipe at Mat Maslan for ‘insulting peoples’ intelligence’.

    He feels he is : ‘..more constructive than exhorting Malaysians to moonlight at a second job, when many are already doing it, is an insult to the intelligence’.

    If Mat Maslan asking Malaysians to get a second job is insulting to our intelligence, then how is Najib asking Malaysians to use second hand goods NOT an insult to our intelligence?

    You can see why the NST has pulled the story from its Online Edition.

    And Mat Maslan is your Minister. He is a member of your gomen. You have appointed him to the jobs of Deputy Minister, Ketua Penerangan UMNO and MP for Pontian. Since now you say Mat maslan is stupid, why dont you fire him? Are you also stupid?

    Folks do you recall Najib’s Kedai Rakyat 1 Malaysia? That was also his idea. Remember how he was crowing all about the Kedai Rakyat 1 Malaysia?

    Well now, about the Kedai Rakyat 1 Malaysia, Najib says “for too many (Malaysians) 1Malaysia products are substandard” ! ! !

    Well Dato Seri ………. it is your pet project. It is your gomen that is responsible. Err…it is you who is responsible.

    Then there is this strange and inexplicable statement : ‘This year could go down in history as the year that restored good sense to humanity : like having a community soup kitchen, a local toys/books library and a neighbourhood used-items exchange.’

    There is much more. Another full page in the NST. But I would need to use the screaming room if I ventured that far.

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