COMMENT | Reading the US Department Of Justice’s (DOJ) criminal indictment of November 1, 2018, relating to 1MDB, as well as its earlier (July 2016) civil forfeiture lawsuit on assets allegedly linked to it, I am struck by three singular observations.
First is the appalling avarice of the alleged culprits; second, the utter impunity with which they conducted themselves; and third, the sheer stupidity of the man without whose authority those shenanigans would not have been possible – Malaysian Official 1, as referred to in both charges. The world now knows him as Najib Abdul Razak. While he is not facing any DOJ charges as yet, in Malaysia he faces several criminal ones that could put him in jail for the rest of his life.
This 1MDB heist is by far the most complex and largest in terms of monetary value. The sheer hubris of the perpetrators to think that they could get away with it. As for Najib, he is not terribly bright, just wily enough to know that his fellow ministers and UMNO leaders could be bought cheaply with the loot from 1MDB.
As for his rise in UMNO, that too is more the consequence of Malay culture. Malays are suckers for terhutangbudi, an excessive sense of gratitude. With Najib, it was for his father Abdul Razak Hussein – Malaysia’s second Prime Minister who died unexpectedly while in office in 1976.
Had Najib not been a Bin Razak, he would be but a middling civil servant, at best. Think of it; had his Bin Razak status been ignored, or the powerful had not been terhutangbudi, Malaysia would have been spared much grief today, and a whole lot less debt.
Najib Razak and his Master Yoda
The trail of financial liabilities of 1MDB, though massive and painful, is at least quantifiable. Not so the associated lost opportunities. Had the billions not been squandered on luxuries in London, Beverley Hills, and New York or funding soft porno movies, but on improving national schools and Felda settlements, we would be that much closer to the goals of Ketuanan Melayu and Vision 2020.
This being Malaysia, the dangerous race factor is never far from the surface. That is the most pernicious and consequential legacy of 1MDB. Already there are ugly rumours, and not just within UMNO but also other segments of the Malay community, blaming those smart, greedy Chinese once again taking advantage, if not outright cheating, of sweet, innocent Malay leaders.
Even Najib is now distancing himself from Jho Low This potential explosive component is the most dangerous and incendiary, and one that cannot be unquantified.
Even uglier and more painful to express publicly is this: Malays are downright ashamed by the outrageous behaviour of their corrupt leaders. Not stated but obvious is that all those charged in Malaysia are Malays, not ordinary ones but top leaders.
Malaysians must thank Mahathir for appointing Tommy Thomas as the attorney-general. It is amazing what you can achieve when you put a premium on honesty, integrity, and competence. Yes, there were many Malays who complained of Thomas not being a Malay or Muslim, as well as on his less-than-polished Malay.
Regardless, he put to shame his predecessor, Mohamed Apandi Ali. He, together with Najib, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim and others, is but an unmitigated disaster and gross embarrassment to Malays and Muslims, bar none.
UMNO new Leadership devoid of Honour and Integrity
By normal reckoning, Apandi should have been impeached. Again in a perversion of values, Najib made him a Tan Sri, and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong agreed. Like it or not, to many non-Malays as well as Malays, the likes of Najib and Apandi represent the best that our community could offer. That hurts!
UMNO’s Bro Azeez Mamak Rahim
As for those other champions of Ketuanan Melayu, their goals would be achieved that much faster and more efficaciously if they would first get rid of these characters in their midst.
It is good to be reminded that with DOJ’s filings, a pivotal defendant in its criminal case has already pleaded guilty; with its civil (case), at least two have agreed to settle.
Much can be deduced from the local reactions, and even more so from the lack of same among some notable quarters. It is not surprising that simple kampung folks still believe Najib despite those charges as well as the boxes of gold and cash hauled from his residences. They still believe that the money was for them!
What stretches one’s credulity is that UMNO leaders too bought Najib’s snake oil, and they included many lawyers and accountants, as well as an Oxford graduate and even an Ivy League PhD! That is the greatest Malay shame and tragedy.
M BAKRI MUSA, a surgeon in California, is a frequent commentator on Malaysian affairs.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
The Boys In Blue Catch Up With The Masters Of The Universe – Comment
November 4, 2018
Thank you to you Clare too for your tenacity and persistence. 1MDB won’t go away until Najib and his cohorts are punished for money laundering and corruption
In a recent commentary the former US Ambassador to Malaysia, John Malott, expressed his pride in the ordinary men and women of his country’s law enforcement, who had done such a wonderful, dogged and persistent job on bringing the perpetrators of 1MDB to book.
Ambassador John Malott
He was right. The issues around this scandal are not to do with politics, they are to do with law and order and the vital principle that laws, once made, must apply equally to all. As a result, as predicted by Sarawak Report, the US Department of Justice issued indictments yesterday, not only against Malaysia’s fugitive financier Jho Low, but also against leading executives of the US banking giant Goldman Sachs.
Some in Malaysia have understandably expressed a little scepticism about the role of the United States in this matter. After all, big power politics have so often operated with no respect for justice whatsoever and evidence abounds of lobbying efforts funded by Najib and his cohorts to undermine the work of the Department of Justice in this case as well.
However, the point of the rule of law and its application to all, is that it benefits all and in this inter-related world corruption is a global menace. Receiver countries in the kleptocratic network have now belatedly come to appreciate that serious problems accompany the advent of very large sums of dirty money in the hands of a few highly criminal entities.
It was in the interests of the United States to deal with 1MDB, therefore, as well as being the right thing to do in the minds of the humble officials and their political bosses, who sorted out this giant kleptocratic theft. Otherwise, the beneficiaries of corrupt billions – filtered without being taxed through the off-shore system – can start to negatively influence politics and decision-making in the United States and other recipient countries.
The criminally super-rich can become super-powerful: sponsoring political parties and so-called think tanks; bribing officials and confusing the public with a deluge of false information all to increase their own position and power by undermining democracy.
Kleptocracy is a Global Danger
Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, introduced the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Unit in 2014 to counter the threat of laundered billions finding their way into the United States, after decades during which global regulators had dangerously turned a relative blind eye to extra-judicial corruption and money laundering.
1MDB happens to have been one of the first major strikes by that unit of the Department of Justice and FBI. Last year the present Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, upheld the value of its work.
It is hugely significant that this department has now moved to indict senior figures within one of the United States’ own most powerful financial institutions, Goldman Sachs, who are now charged with actively conspiring with then Prime Minister Najib Razak’s agent, Jho Low, to steal billions and bribe officials in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia in order to make big kickbacks for themselves.
Those officials are stated as including ‘Malaysian Official One (MO1), ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, and plainly also include the former Chairman and CEO of Abu Dhabi’s Aabar sovereign fund, who received vast kickbacks for siphoning money out of the Goldman bond structures (using the fund’s ownership of the private Falcon Bank).
“A three-count criminal indictment was unsealed today in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging Low Taek Jho, also known as “Jho Low,” and Ng Chong Hwa, also known as “Roger Ng,” with conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s investment development fund, and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials. As part of the three-count indictment, Ng is also charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA by circumventing the internal accounting controls of a major New York-headquartered financial institution (Financial Institution), which underwrote more than $6 billion in bonds issued by 1MDB in three separate bond offerings in 2012 and 2013, while Ng was employed at the Financial Institution as a managing director. Ng was arrested earlier today in Malaysia, pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant issued at the request of the United States. Low remains at large.” [DOJ Criminal Indictment]
The ‘Financial Institution’ referred to is clearly Goldman Sachs. In a related move at the start of this week, Malaysia’s own Attorney General challenged in the UK High Court a 2017 judgement by the private arbitration service the LCIA (London Court of International Arbitration) in favour of Abu Dhabi to the tune of some $4.5 billion, on the very grounds that the entire arrangement could plainly have been seen as a fraudulent attempt to steal Malaysia’s public money. Malaysia’s Attorney General ought by justice win his case.
Justice For Goldman Sachs?
In the process of facilitating all this theft, Goldman Sachs made one of the biggest series of profits in the history of banking out of three questionable bond issues for 1MDB, surreptitiously raised via opaque off-shore instruments to the detriment of transparency over the handling of public finances. The details are now laid out in the US criminal indictment, matters which were ignored for nearly a decade by the bank’s own hierarchy.
Tim Leissner pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.
Although the financial world had politely wondered at the enormous payments secured by Goldman Sachs in raising $6.5 billion for 1MDB ($600 million in fees), no one at the bank appears to have examined or reviewed the deals arranged by their Asia Golden Boys, Tim Leissner and Roger Ng – any more than they had checked ‘Dr’ Leissner’s fake academic qualifications.
America’s most powerful bank at the very least failed to adequately scrutinise these eye-watering deals, which are now acknowledged to have been criminal by Leissner, who has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.
The likelihood is worse, that some of the most senior figures were complicit (the bonuses that year were exponential all round) and/or there were systemic problems at the bank, that caused money laundering alerts to fail. Such systemic problems could hardly have been hard to detect by such a major institution concerned to stay within the law.
This Story Spreads Wider Than 1MDB
Malaysia’s mysterious Mr Ng (left)has now finally also been arrested and will likely be shipped to the United State to face the music.
He ought to emulate his former boss and cut a deal. Mr Ng’s antics include a long career of collaboration with Malaysia’s worst kleptocrats, including equally obscure and complex off-shore financial deals involving Goldman Sachs and the Sarawak Government of Taib Mahmud.
Prior to that Mr Ng was a player in Deutsche Bank, which was also extensively in business with the Taib family fortune, particularly with regard to Kenanga Holdings, a jointly owned investment house with CMSB, Taib’s family owned conglomerate.
A thorough clean out of Malaysia’s dirty kleptocratic dealings is what is needed out of 1MDB and beyond that a thorough clean out of the global banks who have proven happy to deal with regimes like these. Ultimately, a thorough clean out of the off-shore system is required.
There is only one jurisdiction who can force this through and that is the Department of Justice of the United States.
The Rule of Law must prevail and Justice must be done–The Case Against Najib Razak, former Malaysian Prime Minister and Finance Minister
Mahathir: Saudi Minister’s U-turn is ‘immaterial’, RM2.6b is from 1MDB
by Annabelle Lee & Hariz Mohd | @www.malaysiakini.com
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has dismissed the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister’s apparent U-turn on the source of former premier Najib Abdul Razak’s infamous RM2.6 billion donation as “immaterial”.
This is because the government “knows” that the money is indeed from 1MDB. At a press conference at the Bersatu headquarters tonight, Mahathir confirmed that Saudi Minister Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir had called on him recently and had denied that the donation had come from Riyadh.
When pressed on why Adel had contradicted his 2016 statement – where he confirmed that the donation had indeed been from Saudi royalty – the Prime Minister said he did not inquire further.
Asked if the denial was done to appease the Pakatan Harapan government, Mahathir answered “maybe, but I don’t know what he was thinking”.
Saudi Minister Foreign Minister Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir
Following a bilateral meeting with Najib in Istanbul in 2016, Adel (photo) had told the press that the RM2.6 billion had been a “genuine donation”.
“We are aware of the donation and it is a genuine donation with nothing expected in return. We are also fully aware that the Attorney-General of Malaysia (Apandi Ali) has thoroughly investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing. “So, as far as we are concerned, the matter is closed,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
‘It comes from 1MDB’
Today, when asked further which of Adel’s statements on the donation were to be believed, Mahathir contended that providing documentation of the transaction was more important. “It is immaterial.“[…] What is important is documentary proof that the money comes from 1MDB or from Saudi (royalty).
“You can’t transfer large sums of money without (any) record. If they say it is from Saudi Arabia, show the records. If they say it is not from Saudi Arabia, we’ll have to find out where it comes from.“As far as we know, it comes from 1MDB,” he said.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has affirmed that the sum had originated from 1MDB and ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts before being transferred to another account controlled by Jho Low.
The US Supreme Court–The Ongoing Brett Kavanaugh Saga
“In this crucible of power politics, of bullying and posturing and rage, no one has been more severely tested than Judge Kavanaugh. If he believes himself innocent of sexual assault — if he is innocent of sexual assault — the test, to him, can only appear monstrous.
Yet unfair as the test might seem to the judge and his supporters, senators who want to preserve the credibility of the Supreme Court cannot now look away from the result: Judge Kavanaugh failed, decisively.”–The Editorial Board,
The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as much as any development in the challenging era of Donald Trump, is testing America’s politicians and its civic institutions. Few, so far, have met the test.
Not Republican senators, who, after denying one president his legitimate authority to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court, are now rushing their own nominee through, uninterested in the truth, while weeping crocodile tears about other people’s partisanship.
Not Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who tainted the process by bringing forward damaging allegations against Judge Kavanaugh only at the last minute.
Not the F.B.I., which either of its own volition or because of constraints imposed by Republicans failed to interview many of the key witnesses who could speak to the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh. And not President Trump, to absolutely no one’s surprise.
In this crucible of power politics, of bullying and posturing and rage, no one has been more severely tested than Judge Kavanaugh. If he believes himself innocent of sexual assault — if he is innocent of sexual assault — the test, to him, can only appear monstrous.
Yet unfair as the test might seem to the judge and his supporters, senators who want to preserve the credibility of the Supreme Court cannot now look away from the result: Judge Kavanaugh failed, decisively.
How? First, he gave misleading answers under oath. Judges — particularly Supreme Court justices — must have, and be seen as having, unimpeachable integrity. The knuckleheaded mistakes of a young person — drinking too much, writing offensive things in a high school yearbook — should not in themselves be bars to high office. But deliberately misleading senators about them during a confirmation process has to be.
Even the small lies, of course, aren’t so small in context, since they relate to drinking or sex and thus prop up his choir-boy-who-indulged-now-and-then defense.
Second, confronted with the accusations against him, Judge Kavanaugh made recourse not to reason and methodical process, but to fury and the rawest partisanship. Judges — particularly Supreme Court justices — must strive to be, and be seen as, above politics.
As Judge Kavanaugh said in a 2015 speech, “to be a good judge and a good umpire, it’s important to have the proper demeanor.” He added: “To keep our emotions in check. To be calm amidst the storm. On the bench, to put it in the vernacular, don’t be a jerk.”Wise words. He wasn’t able to live by them when it mattered. At last week’s hearing, Judge Kavanaugh was a jerk. He spun dark visions of a Democratic conspiracy of vengeance against him. He yelled at Democratic senators, interrupted them frequently, refused to answer questions directly and, at one point, confronted Senator Amy Klobuchar, who had asked him whether he had ever blacked out from drinking.
“I don’t know,” Judge Kavanaugh sneered. “Have you?” This contempt came only moments after Ms. Klobuchar told Judge Kavanaugh about her father’s struggles with alcoholism.
Was Judge Kavanaugh truly out of control, in rage and pain, as he appeared, or had he calculated that a partisan attack would rally President Trump and Republican senators to his side, as it did? (We all know he was capable of a more temperate response to the accusations: He’d demonstrated that just a couple of nights earlier, in his interview with Fox News.) For purposes of Senate confirmation, it shouldn’t matter. Such a lack of self-control, or such open and radical partisanship, ought to be unacceptable in a judge.
And indeed, on Thursday, the retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who was appointed by a Republican president, took the astonishing step of saying that Judge Kavanaugh’s performance before the Judiciary Committee should disqualify him from the court. “Senators should really pay attention to it,” he said.
Judges are human beings, not ideological blank slates, but the American legal system depends on their being fair and open-minded to all who come before them. Judge Kavanaugh failed to show that he can do this, or that he even would want to.
That’s a disappointment, but maybe not a surprise to anyone who knew of his life before he joined the bench. He was a fierce Republican warrior in some of the most politically charged battles of the past two decades — including the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, in which he sought to expose the most intimate details of Mr. Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. He also played a role in the most controversial policies of the George W. Bush administration, including the torture of detainees and warrantless wiretapping. (How much of a role we may never learn, since Senate Republicans still refuse to release more than 90 percent of the documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush administration.)
While many of Judge Kavanaugh’s defenders leapt to exonerate him of sexual assault or excused his rage-bender as understandable, virtually no one has tried to deny his rank partisanship. Yet after last week’s testimony, how could any self-identified Democrat, or leftist, or sexual-assault victim, or anyone who is not identifiable as a Republican, expect to get a fair shake from a Justice Kavanaugh? If he is confirmed, that will pose a profound problem for the court.
It is quite a tribute to Christine Blasey Ford that she has presented the one image of dignity and calm in this howling maelstrom. Dr. Blasey testified last week that a drunken Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a 1982 party while they were in high school. Her testimony was credible, and the F.B.I. inquiry was too cursory to substantiate or discredit it. Judge Kavanaugh denies the accusations, and in a court of law — and, we hope, in his life as an American citizen — he is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
He is not, however, entitled to a seat on the Supreme Court. Republican senators have repeatedly said they respected Dr. Blasey and were sympathetic to her; but to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh now is to declare that her accusations mean nothing.
Presidents have the prerogative to name Supreme Court justices who reflect their values and views of the Constitution. President Trump has no shortage of highly qualified, very conservative candidates to choose from, if he will look beyond this first, deeply compromised choice.
Some Republicans have warned that if Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, no decent person will ever want to be put up for the Supreme Court again. This, like so much nonsense in recent weeks, is political hysteria. For starters, consider these seven names: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts Jr., Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch.
All were seated on the court since 1991, the last time a Supreme Court nominee faced credible allegations of sexual misconduct. In that case, Clarence Thomas got the job, even in a Democratic-controlled Senate. Since then, not a single nominee has faced allegations of the sort leveled at Judge Kavanaugh.
The only failed nominations since 1991 both came at the hands of Republicans: President George W. Bush’s choice of Harriet Miers, who Republicans said was unqualified; and President Barack Obama’s pick of Merrick Garland, a respected federal judge whose only disqualification was being named by a Democrat. Republicans refused to even grant Judge Garland a hearing. Meanwhile, if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, 15 of the last 19 Supreme Court justices will have been chosen by Republican presidents, and the court has had a Republican-appointed majority for nearly half a century.
The Supreme Court, coequal with Congress and the White House, takes up the most important issues facing the country. Its rulings are often decided by a single vote, and they can affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. Yet the source of the court’s power is not tangible. It holds neither the sword nor the purse, to paraphrase Alexander Hamilton. The court’s legitimacy is founded instead in an act of national faith, of confidence in the integrity and fairness of the justices. It is that confidence that ratifies the court’s decisions as the final word on American law.
That confidence has already been shaken. The court’s party-line vote in Bush v. Gore, which effectively decided the 2000 presidential election, led many Americans to wonder if the justices were nothing but politicians in robes. Sixteen years later, Republicans made the balance of the court more clearly a political prize by blocking Judge Garland.
This confirmation battle has been awful for everyone. It has exposed to the country a depth of partisan grievance and connivance within the Senate that should embarrass and worry every American. It is a terrible reality that, at this point, either confirmation or rejection of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination by a narrow and overwhelmingly partisan margin will dismay and anger millions of Americans. But only by voting no, by asking Mr. Trump to send someone else for it to consider, can the Senate pass its test of institutional character and meet its obligation to safeguard the credibility of the Supreme Court.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A28 of the New York edition with the headline: A Test of Mr. Kavanaugh, and America. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
Not many people were surprised when Dr Mahathir Mohamad revived his Look East Policy. He has always admired the Japanese work ethic as well as the way they were able to rebuild their nation after the devastation of World War II. Of course, Japan’s accomplishments have been phenomenal and there’s much we can learn from them.
Corrupt officials with name tags
Cynics will, however, wonder whether anything qualitative has come out of the whole effort to learn from the Japanese, at least in so far as the civil service is concerned.
Civil servants come to work on time with the clock-in system and are readily identifiable by their name tags, but has it made them more productive, more committed to public service, less corrupt? Judging from Mahathir’s own harsh remarks about the civil service, it would seem that the answers to all these questions are a resounding no.
In fact, successive Prime Mnisters have complained about the civil service but all have been quick to also praise them (and raise their salaries) for fear of antagonising an important vote bank.
We also spend millions, year after year, on civil service training programmes, and send civil servants abroad to study. Much of it is simply a waste of time and money.
Clearly, transplanting Japanese work ethics into the civil service, if it’s at all possible, is going to take a lot longer to realise. However, the experience of other countries when it comes to the civil service may be instructive: where there is uncompromising enforcement of rules and performance standards and a really transparent and competitive promotion system, public servants tend to perform better. The prospect of losing their jobs or being denied promotion is a powerful incentive to keep civil servants honest.
Thus far, there have been lots of complaints about the civil service but little sign of a serious attempt at reform. The rot has spread so wide that no one seems to know where to begin. The recent appointment of a new chief secretary is a step in the right direction but unless there is a commitment to undertake a radical overhaul of the civil service and the way it operates, we are not going to see the kind of qualitative improvements that our nation desperately needs.
Why Look East?
But why look East and not within in the first place? In his speech to the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries of Malaysia (ACCCIM) in July, Mahathir himself noted that “the Chinese were the driving force behind generating wealth in Malaysia”. He went on to say that, “Our country is what it is today because of the contribution from the business community, especially the Chinese community because they are dynamic in many ways.”
He then called for a collaborative effort (presumably with ACCCIM and the Malaysian Chinese business community) to lessen income disparities so that everyone could share in Malaysia’s prosperity. It was not the first time that Mahathir has mooted such an idea.
Is renewed interest in the Look East policy a reflection of Mahathir’s disenchantment with the inability of Malaysian businessmen to work together? Is he looking East because he has not been able to look within?
It’s a provocative question, no doubt, but it deserves some attention. In the past, such collaboration may have been difficult – you can’t demonise a community and then expect it to be helpful – but with a new government in power it might be time to seriously look at ways to get more Malay and Chinese businessmen to work together. The government’s plan to privatise some of the GLCs might, in fact, provide opportunities for such collaborative efforts.
Waiting to be wooed
In the meantime, buoyed by Pakatan Harapan’s election victory and hopeful of a more inclusive future, many Malaysians are returning home. We must find ways to tap the expertise, skills and connections of all Malaysians wherever they are.
Some Malaysians living abroad, however, are waiting to be wooed. One group of them recently urged the government “to form a special panel to woo those living there to return home and join government-linked companies to contribute to the development of a new Malaysia”. They also asked the government to “provide incentives and remove certain restrictions to encourage them to come back”, to quote one report.
If they need to be “wooed” to come home or if they need “incentives” to move back (and to work in GLCs at that), they are better off staying where they are. After all, thousands of Malaysian students return home each year without asking for incentives.
Just ask Yeo Bee Yin, our Minister of Energy, Green technology, science, climate change and environment; she didn’t need incentives to come home to serve her country. It is good that she is now in a leadership position.
Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.