A World of Scandal Descends on Malaysian Prime Minister

January 31, 2016

A World of Scandal Descends on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

by John Berthelsen


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib  beset by investigations in Switzerland, France, Saudi Arabia

The world outside of Malaysia appears to be coming apart for Prime Minister Najib Razak, with announcements on Jan. 26 by Swiss authorities that as much as US$4 billion has been stolen from the state-backed 1MDB investment fund, and a report in France that two officials of a state-owned defense contractor were indicted in December for bribing Najib in the 1996 US$1 billion purchase of French submarines.

The events followed a disastrous press conference on Jan. 26 by Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali supposedly clearing Najib of wrongdoing over RMB2.82 billion (US$681 million) that had ended up in his personal bank account in 2013. Enterprising news photographers using telephoto lenses caught pictures of the papers he was waving during the press conference. The papers actually described a money trail of millions of ringgit of public money that flowed into Najib’s personal accounts.

Apandi Ali’s assertion that the money came from the Saudi royal family has been met with widespread derision.  In all, the aftermath of the Attorney-General’s press conference presents a picture of a government desperately scrambling to contain a widening scandal. The Saudi government is said to be investigating the assertion that the royal family had made the donation, which is felt to be highly unlikely, especially in the light of the Swiss investigation.

Najib stonewalls

If the world outside is coming apart for Najib, however, he has done his level best to try to contain news of the scandal inside the country, blocking critical international news organizations including Asia Sentinel and Sarawak Report. This week the government also blocked the enormously popular blog platform Medium for reprinting Sarawak Report articles, although those articles represent a tiny fraction of the blog platform’s output by thousands of bloggers, many of whom merely publish recipes or stories about their cats.

In addition to blocking Asia Sentinel and Sarawak Report, the government in July 2015 suspended the influential business publication The Edge and its sister paper for three months for printing details of the 1MDB mess. Police in May arrested journalists from the news portal Malaysian Insider and in November raided the offices of another, Malaysiakini. It has recently toughened laws against online media.  Nonetheless, both published the news of the Swiss action.

The mainstream media,  including radio, television and newspapers, all of which are owned by government-aligned political parties,  have been put on notice to be careful of what they air or print. The government has charged opposition politicians with sedition for seeking to investigate the various scandals and sought to curb public statements of critics by threatening them with jail – including the 90-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the man who engineered his ascent to the top job by driving his predecessor, Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, from office.

 Ampu Man Apandi Ali and Journalist John Berthelsen

Najib and Apandi Ali have silenced Malaysian Anti-Crime Commission investigators and pigeonholed an investigation into the movement of money by Central Bank Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

Any of the scandals would have driven another person from office. But Najib, backed by his tenacious wife Rosmah Mansor, has stonewalled all challenges, charging racism or a cabal by unknown dark forces outside the country to push him out. He is said to be seeking a public relations firm to polish his image in preparation for elections in 2018.

But Stonewalling won’t Stop Outside Probes

But the tone of the two new investigations by prosecutors in international courts may be something else. Other probes are moving forward by the US government for money-laundering and in other countries as well. While Najib continues via patronage, bribes or makework jobs to receive the solid backing of the UMNO cadres who elect him, the international problems he faces could make it a new ballgame. It is too early to tell.

The Swiss in particular were upset with Apandi Ali’s announcement that the investigation had ended, issuing a terse one-page press release late on Jan. 29 saying the Swiss authorities had requested cooperation with Malaysia for mutual assistance in a criminal investigation of two former officials of 1MDB and “persons unknown,” presumably Taek Jho Low and Najib, for misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.

The Swiss authorities said the Swiss Attorney General had met with Apandi Ali in September to discuss mutual cooperation into the 1MDB investigation.  In conversations with the Wall Street Journal, they said they were surprised and disappointed that the Malaysian attorney general had closed the case, saying the lack of cooperation would hamper their efforts to get to the bottom of the scandal.

“The sum suspected to have been misappropriated amounts to around USD 4 billion,” the Swiss statement said. “So far it has been ascertained that a small portion of the money was transferred to accounts held in Switzerland by various former Malaysian public officials and both former and current public officials from the United Arab Emirates.”

Cherchez Le Premier

Meanwhile, in Paris yesterday, Agence France Presse quoted judicial sources as saying Bernard Baiocco, 72, former president of Thales International Asia (Thint Asia), a unit controlled by the French munitions manufacturer DCN, was indicted on December 15 for “active bribery of foreign public officials on people including Najib Razak.”

Najib was Defense Minister at the time of the alleged bribe, amounting to €114 million which appears to have been passed on to the United Malays National Organization. Baiocco was held in custody for 48 hours, according to AFP, together with the Directorate of Naval Construction (DCN) for the sale, who was also indicted for complicity in misuse of corporate assets, the sources said.

DCN weapons sales across the world were the subject of astonishing scandals that stretched across half the earth to Pakistan, Taiwan, Malaysia, India and untold numbers of other countries whose defense ministries bought armaments from the French defense giant around the turn of the century. At least three of those sales have been dogged with stories of bribery and the murder or unexplained deaths of 19 people. According to other revelations, the sale of submarines to India is also suspected of “non-compliance” with the OECD Convention on Bribery.

“This is an important and encouraging step,” William Bourdon, the crusading French lawyer who brought the case on behalf of Suaram, the Malaysian reform NGO, told AFP. Suaram took the case to Bourdon on the basis of stories written by Asia Sentinel after the death of a Mongolian woman named Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006 at the hands of two of Najib’s bodyguards.

“The French judges show, even if the investigation goes on, their ability to dissect complex corruption mechanisms, Bourdon said. “In some respects, the investigation is just beginning.”

Bourdon was kicked out of Malaysia when he flew there in 2013 to attempt to interview witnesses involved in the case.

In Paris, according to AFP, the prosecuting judges suspected sums from a firm called “C5 Commercial Engineering” provided for payment by DCNI, a subsidiary of DCN, of €30 million to Thales International Asia, for “selling expenses for export (FCE).”

Another company, the Hong Kong-based Terasasi Hong Kong Ltd., whose main shareholder was Razak Baginda, received almost the same amount for consultations. Investigators suspect the consultations of being a front for bribes.


26 thoughts on “A World of Scandal Descends on Malaysian Prime Minister

    • Tebing Tinggi,

      Well, they can still charge him in absentia based on the evidence they already have, and arrest him once he is outside Malaysia. But frankly, they won’t do that since he is elected by us. Najib is our problem, not theirs. Najib is in power and only Malaysians can act to remove him. But let us be honest, we can’t do much.

      Via the next elections? I am not sure if there is going to be a GE 14. Why should he have elections if he knows from the Special Branch and military intelligence that he will likely lose? He will find reasons not to have one under NSC Law. Of course, I am second guessing him.–Din Merican

  1. 1Malaysia UMNO Baru-BN regime entering the political science and development economics books as a classic case of
    poor governance and Third World kleptocracy.

  2. Scandals among political/other leaders are common in many countries worldwide but in most countries they are soon forgotten because the ‘tainted’ leaders leave and fade away from limelight. Malaysia may be among the few where the leaders not only fight but also stay and can justify that the allegations were wrong.
    Other world leaders may be able to learn from the Malaysian example,

  3. At the rate things are happening in Malaysia and looking at the grin faces of the UMNO cahoots and the many faces of Najib forcing himself to smile, it is almost unlikely that there will be GE14. Even by chance, he calls for elections, there is no guarantee that Opposition can win when a number of Parliamentarians under seditious charges remain pending and expected to round them come close to General Elections, thus depriving them to get nominated.

    Najib is not bothered to the rule of law with all the exposes but instead his stooges are buttering him for the revised budget when it is badly effecting the future generation by depriving the scholarships to students. What sort of future lies to the younger generation living under this regime?

  4. Whatever happens please do not allow this issue to be internationalized. Once that happens it will be of interest to journalist, TV Channels and historians. Just look at Syria – Everyone Wants To Solve The Problem.

  5. Scandalous it may be but, folks, think of it from a positive side – corrupted and murderous Najib has put Malaysia in the world map. Din, I beg to vary a little from your observation. Without GE14 Najib is hard to find excuses to impose NSC. There will be GE14 as scheduled, with heavily armed police and military around to intimidate the voters. If he won, all is forgiven and forgotten. If not, he will send the Malay gangsters out to cause riots, follow by sending in the police and military; put all the blames on the opposition parties, the foreign journalists and the Chinese; and then suspend democracy and parliament to rule by a National Security Council under him. Sound familiar? Yes, it is May 13 all over again, except this time they don’t have to rely on the Malay gangsters from Morib and Banting. They are well organized by UMNO all over the country now.

  6. Dinobeano

    As I say ,’what can they do ?’ the whole Bahgian is behind him , believed and support what ever he say and do.

    People use to tell ,Tun M was very powerful and manage dictator like government ,but he cant even save UMNO from being ruled out “HARAM” by the judge .
    Najib can turned everything around for his advantage .

    Should election to be put on hold ,we have to sleep with it’s.

  7. I may be a State swindler of billions but I know I have been super clever to cover my tracks through devious ways. I have no sense of guilt or shame absolutely. That being the case, if someone asks me to drink a bottle of poison or do a hara-kiri on myself or jump down from Petronas Tower, why should I do that?

  8. SWiss Govt can issue an Interpol warrant of arrest. When this hantu jembalang Najib and his fat-arsed wife get out of Malaysia, the police can arrest him.

    He knows for sure he will be safe in Malaysia.

    Or FBI can arrest his bloody stepson in the U.S. and that fat Jho Low if FBI has the evidence. Swiss AG and FBI will be exchanging intelligence.

    When Rosmah is hurt by her son’s arrest by the FBI, she will ask her hantu jembalang husband to surrender. She would rather sacrifice her old Hu sband than her young son. Once her hantu jembalang husband is in jail, she can still find a young toy boy from Thailand or Philippines since she has loads of money.

    If her husband refuses, she will use black magic (Guruji in India) to make him cuckoo so he will listen to her.

    This is how the story of this evil family will end by dec 2016, latest.
    You must have consulted the world famous MH370 pawang with two coconuts.–Din Merican

  9. Even if the Swiss, French and US finds Najib guilty, it makes no difference. The time has come to.point out that it’s not just Najib that is guilty, its UMNO and more especially Hadi’s PAS. Face it, there is a strong connected tissue between Najib and all of UMNO and most of PAS today whether they admit it or not. The corruption, the abuse, its not possible if they really object.

  10. Din,
    Seriously, if all legal means fail………….I am looking forward towards the Irish solution and partition of Malaysia. It’s time that those who wish to be stupid………to be quarantined in one corner of Malaysia.
    The Irish did it. Catalonians and Scots want separation. We too. Come on! Malaysia is a foreign invention anyway

  11. Top Civil Servants and Constitutional Office Holders are the chief advisers to government on the implementation side of the equation. They have to play their role.

  12. Recently i met two diplomats who had served in MALAYsia both opined that there will be serious disturbance in the country and cautioned that non Malays and non muslims should stay out of the impending affray between Malay groups.Recent TPPA in KL was an eye opener small group for PSM and about 7000 green for PAS, ISMA and other right wing Malay groups.
    Bersih group conspicuously absent with a forlorn looking Maria Chin Abdullah sliding up to the small but focused PSM supporters

  13. Some recommended me to watch the local movie, “Ola Bola” as the storyline has much to do with our national team in the 1980s. If nothing the nostalgia, he said, would have an impact on me. If this movie would move the people I hope a movie on Jibby’s 1MDB and the billions he stole would have a greater impact on viewers. I am sure there are many who could play the part of Al Jubur and retound Rosie without flinching.

  14. Sooner or later there will be investigations into the “legitimate” banking institutions and brokerage firms that facilitated this deal. I’m assuming the Singaporean authorities are getting nervous.

    This is not so much about countries but the financial hegemons who run things are going to get screwed because the incompetents in Putrajaya don’t know how to take care of their business.

  15. In Msia all criminal proceedings have been instituted by the Macc, Police and other investigating agencies w/o going through the AG, notwithstanding Art.145(3) Fed Const. Don’t believe me ask any magistrate and session crt Judge. At no time did the magistrate or Judge or Defence counsel would ask whether the AG had agreed to the prosecution or not. This case is the exception to the normal rule & practice. Even in murder cases, the police never sent their case files to the AG. Once a DPP is satisfied that there is evidence of a prima facie case, he directs the police to charge the accused.

    I think in the Najib’s cases, public interested groups should file an application in the High Crt compelling the Macc to charge Najib for the sect. 403 penal code offence that they recommended to Apandi. And let Apandi as AG intervene and become a party to the application. Najib wallop RM42+27million of pensioner’s fund. Are you going to let him escape the law notwithstanding what the corrupt and pariah Apandi opined.

    The thruth is both Macc and Apandi are afraid to charge Najib. The Macc would be happy if there is a court order compelling them to charge Najib.

  16. The natives of Sabah and Sarawak are as good as goners. Their original leaders had failed to secure and safeguard the interests of their States and its people. They traded some of the guaranteed state autonomy for power, position and perks for themselves The situation is no better now. Breakaway and independence? It must be a foolish thought. They can’t do much from their interior with their blow-pipes unless the Federal Government bungles up big time and pushes these people to the wall so much so they have to seek outside help and Indonesia, Brunei or Singapore intervenes perforce.

  17. Pak din

    Question is how many more scandals must mesia bear with this corrupt person at helm . He gives new meaning to hilang budi and tebal muka.
    It is part of their iman that they must be patient and will take a lot of nonsense from Najib who bribes them with peanuts while he and Rosie, Zahid Hamidi and UMNO kleptocrats pocket billions. –Din Merican

  18. looesy brain,
    Why is the maximum size of an egg (any egg) the size of a cantaloupe?
    If dunno – go stand at the corner!

    Our UNMOb-fied legalisms may fail us, but the world’s at large will not.
    Izzn’t that what this article is asserting?
    The Swiss, French, British, American, Aussie right up to the lil dotty below, won’t.

    But i would encourage the die-hard UMNOb hacks to stage their first protest against the Swiss and French meddlers to collectively burn their Swiss luxury watches, French branded perfumes, cosmetics, wigs, handbags, wallets, suitcases and other apparel in a bonfire in front of their HQ, as a sign of Mega-Protest. Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat can be on standby, besides the twittering heroes of law enforcement.

    Perhaps, the UMNOb-fied can then buy PRC quality rip-offs at a fraction the price, since these Chinapek are buying up Malaysia’s Prime Assets. Least they can do to show appreciation.

  19. This is a better video of Johnny Clegg & Savuka singing “Asimbonanga”.
    Again, I dedicate this song to political prisoner and future
    Prime Minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim:

  20. In exactly 10 days Anwar Ibrahim will have spent a whole year in prison. He represents the incarcerated aspirations of all honest and decent Malaysians for a fresh start on a clean slate. Najib and Rosmah, on the other hand, personify all the reactionary cultural and psychological traits of a feudal tradition long past its use-by date – an incestuous and ingrown ruling elite suffering from terminal tempurungitis, a condition marked by acute mental and spiritual retardation.

  21. Besides 1MDB which for a year has been openly and elaborately covered by the media,perhaps the writer would want to venture further his investigative journalism into those other past government/political leaders, their children, cronies got their unexplained wealth scandalously acquired….and on how and who had benefited most from the 1982 BMF RM 2.5b Loan Loss,the mother of all scandals that follows. ..Mamico, Perwaja …,BNM 15 b Forex loss, PKFTZ …and counting – all in the hundreds of billions lost at the expense of the rakyat.

    There are more journalism prizes waiting to be claimed.

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