The Ethically-Blighted Prime Minister of Malaysia–Najib Razak


June 19, 2017

The Ethically-Blighted Prime Minister of Malaysia–Najib Razak

by Dr.M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Image result for Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

As for MO1, his spouse and stepson, they are beyond shame. With the millions if not billions they have already expropriated, they can handle the setback. Malaysians however, would be saddled for generations with 1MDB’s humongous debt. Quite a legacy for the son of the late Tun Razak! As for the Tun, what a legacy to have bequeathed Malaysia with his ethically-blighted son.–M.Bakri Musa

The dismissive attitude of Malaysian officials to the latest US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil forfeiture lawsuit targeting expensive assets allegedly acquired with funds illicitly siphoned from 1MDB is misplaced. Their stance is an embarrassing display of gross ignorance.

Yes, civil lawsuits in America are as common as mushrooms after a rainfall. This DOJ action however, is the largest (in dollar value) such forfeitures to date. This second set of lawsuits targeted assets allegedly given to Hollywood celebrities, as well as to the spouse of “Malaysian Official 1” (MO1). The two categories are separate though the latter believe that she is in the same class as the former.

Najib apologists and enablers never fail to point out with unconcealed smugness that the defendants to the lawsuits are not individuals, specifically Najib or his associates and relatives, rather those assets.

That is right, but such sophistry reveals a fundamental ignorance of the American judicial system. Those targeted assets do not exist in vacuo; someone or somebody owns them. They in effect are the defendants.

By targeting those assets and not their owners, DOJ is spared the task of identifying their rightful owners. That can be an arduous and expensive task, what with multiple shell companies involved in dizzying number of foreign jurisdictions. Instead, all DOJ has to do is wait for the owners to come out of the woodwork to identify themselves and lay claim to those assets by challenging the lawsuit. They have to, otherwise they would lose those assets, or at least their share.

One of those owners is Jho Low. He claimed to have bought those assets with his family’s wealth. That at least was believable as he came from a wealthy clan in Penang. Sure enough, his family’s assorted trusts too have contested the lawsuit from faraway New Zealand!

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Then there is one Reza Aziz, identified as the “stepson of MO1.” Where did this son of a nondescript Malaysian army officer get his wealth? From his mother, the daughter of my parent’s contemporary as a village school teacher in Kuala Pilah? Visit her dilapidated ancestral home back in my kampong, and her current flamboyant lifestyle today would make you puke. As for Reza’s stepfather Najib Razak, that man had spent his entire adult life in government, with its measly pay.

Reza Aziz concocted the idea that the money (some hundred million!) was a “gift” from a benevolent Saudi Sheik. Even the wealthiest corpulent Sheik would not be so extravagant with his favorite toy-boy, yet this Reza Aziz character wants those seasoned DOJ prosecutors to believe his story! Even his American accountants did not believe him.

One other owner has also come forward. Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio has not only surrendered the gifts he had received “from the parties named in the civil complaint” but went further and cooperated with DOJ investigators. That cannot be good news for either Jho Low or Reza Aziz.

Any bets whether any of the other “owners,” specifically the alleged recipient of that pink diamond, MO1’s spouse, would return their gifts? It is worth pondering whose actions better reflect the forgiving spirit of Ramadan, hers or DiCaprio’s?

Najib supporters trivialize the DOJ’s lawsuit, citing its lack of “action” after its first filing last year as proof of its political intent. To them, these series of forfeiture lawsuits are yet another albeit more sophisticated American attempt at regime change.  Such commentaries reveal a pathetic lack of the basic understanding of the US justice system.

This asset forfeiture is a civil lawsuit. Unlike criminal ones where the axiom “justice delayed, justice denied” is adhered to, civil suits can and do drag on for years. They go to trial only when all parties are ready, and all extraneous issues as with ownership claims settled. The fact that these forfeiture lawsuits drag on should not be misinterpreted in any way.

There is also the possibility that criminal charges would be filed against specific individuals during the discovery or the trial.

There is only one certainty. Once a lawsuit is filed, those assets are effectively tied up. They cannot be sold, mortgaged, or altered in any way without the court’s consent. DOJ has in effect total control of those assets, meaning, their de facto owner.

These forfeiture lawsuits will not be settled out of court. Those prosecutors have a point to prove, and with unlimited resources to pursue it. That reality has prompted owners like DiCaprio to cooperate with DOJ.

This will not be like a Malaysian trial where prosecutors could be illicitly paid off or where defense lawyers openly brag about having judges in their (lawyer’s) back pockets. The defendants have hired some of the best legal minds including those who had once worked in DOJ and had successfully prosecuted many high profile kleptocrats. It will be far from a walk in the park for the DOJ lawyers.

DOJ does have something in its favor. In a civil suit, unlike a criminal trial, the burden of proof is lower, only the “preponderance of evidence” and not “beyond reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof also shifts from the plaintiff to the defendant. Meaning, the owners have to prove that the funds they used to purchase those assets were untainted. It would be very difficult to convince an American jury that a Middle Eastern sheik would willingly part away with hundreds of millions of dollars to a Malay boy no matter how pretty he looks, for nothing in return.

Regardless of the outcome, this trial would expose to the world all the sordid ugly details of the 1MDB shenanigans. Once those are out, not many would be proud to call themselves Malaysians. They would be downright ashamed for having elected a leader with such unbounded avarice, and then letting him get away with it for so long.

Image result for Najib Razak and Tun Razak

As for MO1, his spouse and stepson, they are beyond shame. With the millions if not billions they have already expropriated, they can handle the setback. Malaysians however, would be saddled for generations with 1MDB’s humongous debt. Quite a legacy for the son of the late Tun Razak! As for the Tun, what a legacy to have bequeathed Malaysia with his ethically-blighted son.

Malaysia Practises KorekEconomics


June 12, 2017

Malaysia Practises KorekEconomics (Dig-Economics)

by Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for najib razak

Finance Minister Najib Razak–The Proponent of KorekEconomics

COMMENT | The history of taxation is synonymous with the rise of the state. When kings and warlords could not go on plundering and pillaging the people, they switched to taxation to prevent the farmers and settlers from avoiding the punitive measures.

By soft pedalling on the extraction, the state was born. Mancur Olson, an economist, referred to the state as the evolution from the “stationary bandit”. Paul Collier, at Oxford University, spoke of the logic of using the state to collect rents systematically, rather than to steal sporadically and in a spurious manner too.

In Malaysia, under the current administration, the two concepts that separate stealing from collecting taxes have been collapsed into one. Both are two sides of the same coin.

By introducing the tourism tax, for example, it seems to be aimed at foreign tourists. Yet, does anyone remember “Cuti-Cuti Malaysia?” This is an ongoing campaign that encourages Malaysians of all ages to travel within the country.

Yet, the moment you do, any five-, four- or three-star hotels you stay in means you would incur an additional cost that will go to the current administration. This ranges from RM 20 per night in a five-star hotel to RM 5 per night in a three-star hotel.

Thus, it doesn’t matter if you are a high-end traveller or a low-end traveller. The administration of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is there to extract a portion of your hard earned income that you have set aside for a family holiday.

Digging deep for ‘korek economics’

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In other words, in addition to the goods and services tax (GST), your income tax and potentially the service tax too, the government wants to put its hands into your pockets. And they will dig deep to get what they want, in what can only be known as “korek economics”.

“Korek economics” is not based on collection. It is driven by the degree to which the Malaysian economy has become ruined, or “koyak” in Malay, the lingua franca of Malaysia.

In 1MDB, Malaysians are now saddled with, allegedly, a debt in excess of RM44 billion. When the debt of other government-owned companies are taken into account, the debt is easily more than 80 percent of the GDP.

Not forgetting the on-budget and off-budget debts. Off budget debts are debts created through bond issuance by an entity wholly owned by the government, with guarantees by the government.

Debts like the astronomical ECRL project, which is priced at an inflated price of RM55 billion and funded through debts from China. With an estimated three percent interest rate, seven years deferred payment and 240 months of repayment instalment, it will cost the government or the taxpayers a whopping sum of RM99.6 billion!

If we use the East Coast passenger load to find the breakeven ticket price one way from KL to Kota Bahru, it will cost a whopping RM3,586 one way, the same price for a return economy class air ticket to Siberia, Russia. Get the point?

Not happy with the revenue drawn from GST, the Malaysian government has offered a mere 15 percent discount to more than half a million graduates who remain unable to pay back their PTPTN loan. This harms the ability of the graduates to live an ordinary life. Given the youth unemployment is three times the national average, they seem to resign to the fact that they are in hopeless zone.

Thus, the process to “korek” Malaysia has not merely happened in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, where a hole is dug deep, without any structures on it, but it is proliferating across the whole country. Welcome to Curi-curi Malaysia.


RAIS HUSSIN MOHAMED ARIFF is a supreme council member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). He also chairs the Bersatu Policy and Strategy Bureau.

 

The Unsung Heroes of 1MDB


June 12, 2017

The Unsung Heroes of 1MDB

by R. Nadeswaran/aka Citizen Nades@www.malaysiakini.com

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COMMENT | Two years is too short a time for events to be written as history, especially when a subject is constantly at the fore with one revelation after another. Any other issues would have “died” and would have been sent to the annals for “safekeeping”, but the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) cannot be consigned to the archives – as yet.

Even as Malaysians are fed with more information, or “allegations” as the officialdom wants to term them, it gets more intense day by day as details are provided in instalments with saucy details.

But before the adage that “Malaysians easily forget” is played out as we head towards the halfway stage of the year, there’s plenty we need to remind ourselves about.

The dark days of the beginnings of the 1MDB probe will one day be in our history books for certain, but Malaysians have to be continually reminded of how several personalities in important positions who were held in high esteem were brought down to their knees for political expediency.

Two years ago – July 4, 2015 to be exact – the the Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail announced that investigations had commenced into the allegations of funds transferred to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal bank accounts.

The multi-agency special task force consisted of Gani and three other tan sris: the then-governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), Zeti Akhtar Aziz; the Inspector General of police (IGP), Khalid Abu Bakar; and the then Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Abu Kassim Mohamed.

A day earlier, responding to reports in The Wall Street Journal, the Prime Minister retorted: “I have never taken funds for personal gain as alleged by my political opponents – whether from 1MDB, SRC International or other entities, as these companies have confirmed.” He was to repeat the statement on July 8, reiterating: “I have never taken 1MDB funds for personal gain.”

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But 24 days after the formation of the special task force, Gani joined the ranks of the unemployed on the grounds of his health; Zeti’s retirement from the Central Bank was confirmed; and Abu Kassim suddenly found a new vocation – lecturing at the International Institute Against Corruption in faraway Vienna. Khalid was the only one who was left unscathed.

On August 4, Gani’s successor Mohamed Apandi Ali disbanded the task force, and the Police more or less became the final arbiter in the matter of 1MDB.

It was the beginning of the drama and the spectacle which continues to be played out, the latest being revelations or allegations (whichever way you want to look at it) that the Prime Minister paid lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah a staggering RM9.5 million.

Internal crackdown

On August 1 2015, former adviser to the MACC Rashpal Singh had a police welcome party waiting for him at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport when he returned from a private visit to London.

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What was his offence? Having tea with the editor of the whistleblower website Sarawak Report. Officially, he was supposed to have handed over state secrets, an allegation which never went beyond his arrest and subsequent release on the same day.

Also taken in were Jessica Gurmeet Kaur, a member of the secretariat for administration and finance of the anti-money laundering task force at the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi, a deputy public prosecutor seconded from the AG’s Chambers to the MACC.

Both were arrested, and subsequently released. The office and home of at least one of them was raided, and documents related to MACC’s investigations were reportedly removed.

Two MACC officers were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department on a 24-hour notice, only for the order to be rescinded when the chief secretary to the government was reminded that he could be held liable for such actions under the MACC Act 2009, which were tantamount to “obstructing an officer from carrying out his duties”.

MACC officers became the focus of police investigations into allegations of the leaking of confidential information, and involvement in a supposed conspiracy to overthrow the government. Such actions did not go down well in the cabinet. The usually-sedate ministers kept silent.

But as the morale in MACC plunged, some token comments from a senator (who had no party affiliation) made sense. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of governance and integrity, Paul Low was quoted as saying the police “are showing high-handedness”, and that it “is important that [MACC] do what they need to do”.

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The chairman of MACC’s consultation and corruption prevention panel, Johan Jaafar, expressed “dismay over the spate of raids and arrests by the police”, and “reiterated the need for the agency to be allowed to execute its duties unhindered”.

But the war drums were already being beaten. Terse statements were made insinuating that officials within had leaked government secrets and details of the investigation. No evidence was provided. but the media made it appear as though some of these people had committed treason.

Then came the bombshell: Apandi was quoted by Sin Chew Daily as saying he was considering increasing the punishment meted out to those convicted of having leaked state secrets under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA). This included life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the rotan. Who were these punishments aimed at?

Right-thinking Malaysians considered these proposed changes as an act of intimidation against straight civil servants, who were supposedly leaking information.

Apandi also warned the media and said the OSA would also be used against reporters who refused to disclose their sources for the leaked information they used in their reports.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman stoked the fire in a written reply in the Dewan Rakyat, stating: “The AG’s Chambers is of the opinion that it is time that the provisions relating to penalties in the OSA be reviewed in line with current developments in the spreading of information in a borderless world, and the frequency of leaks of government secrets in this present time.”

But all these “threats” have failed to stop the flow of information, complete with documents to support the claims. Attempts to discredit the sources of such information have failed. Even using Singapore as a conduit and bearer of good news has fallen flat, because the attempts were so blatant that everyone could see through the whole exercise. Similar efforts from elsewhere to suggest something sinister and conspiratorial have also failed.

As we move on, more revelations and disclosures can be expected. Some may just be blatant lies; others may be figments of someone’s imagination and perhaps some truthful statements. The ordinary Malaysian has to decide for himself or herself, and separate the wheat from the chaff. In the meantime, let us pay tribute to those who stood tall in confronting adversity.

While Malaysians remember the dreaded Operation Lalang of 1987 and pay tribute to those who found themselves incarcerated for the wrong reasons, let us not forget what happened just two years ago. During the last week of July and the second week of August, many were unjustly punished for carrying out their responsibilities.

 

They paid a price for diligently doing what they were supposed to do. No one overstepped the line but yet found themselves entrapped in the system. To these brave, honest, innocent, and dedicated men and women who were wronged, society will continue to recognise, acknowledge, and remember your courageous efforts.

MACC is serious about combating Corruption in BolehLand?


May 9, 2017

COMMENT: I always enjoy reading TK Chua’s plain speaking articles and have often featured them on my globally read blog. I thank http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com for hosting them and my friend Nelson Fernandez for allowing me to use them. Mr. Chua never fails to call a spade nothing but spade. But this is something elsehttp://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2017/05/06/hail-to-the-macc-chief-for-being-bold/.

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The last of the Anti-Corruption Mohicans was the late Justice Tan Sri Dato’ Harun Hashim. He was competent, fearless and very professional. He had no regard for politicians because he was a public servant par excellence and an outstanding member of our Judiciary who served King and country with dignity and distinction.

Today, most of our civil servants starting from the top are apple polishers who are out to suck up to politicians in power. The manner in which the 1MDB scandal was handled is my case in point.  The Auditor- General, the Attorney-General and others  let us down. They did not have the conviction and courage to do what is right.

Yes, Mr. Chua, I note you used the word “resolve” in quotes. The present MACC Chief Commissioner is the new broom. I am not optimistic about what the Chief Commissioner can do to refashion the organisation, even with the benefit of the advice and wisdom of  former  UN Kofi Annan’s ethics crusader Tunku Abdul Aziz.

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Remember his predecessor, Tan Sri Abu Kassim.  Abu Kassim promised a lot but failed to do his duty faithfully.  Why? Because  there is no political will to fight corruption. After all, our Prime Minister himself is corrupt and worse still, he is incompetent.–Din Merican

MACC is serious about combating Corruption in BolehLand?

by TK Chua@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

I want to support the Chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in his “resolve” to make the anti-graft agency more respectable in combating corruption in the country.

However, I would like to comment on some of his statements. First, one swallow does not a summer make. The arrest of a Tan Sri here and a Datuk Seri there does not signify that the MACC has become bold to “venture” into the turf of the rich and powerful.

I have seen enough of many agencies having the tendency to indulge in the “flash in the pan” syndrome. They do things to impress, not with the enduring objective to solve a problem at hand.

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The New Broom at The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC)

Efforts against corruption must be relentless, imminent and without fear or favour. When too many perceive that the rich and powerful are being protected, usually it is because such a view has some semblance of truth to it.

To prove otherwise requires efforts more than arresting a Tan Sri or a Datuk Seri. A Tan Sri trying to broker a royal title is very different from other Tan Sris in charge of millions in government funds.

Persistence and being resolute are key to curbing corruption. The rich and the powerful have become bold and blatant in their deviant ways because they perceive the likelihood of being hauled up, too slim.

Most of us are creatures of greed. Given an opportunity, many would abuse the law and enrich themselves. But if the consequence of our corrupt practices is clear and imminent, I think many would think twice before committing it.

Another point the MACC chief mentioned was the lack of personnel and funding in combating corruption. According to him, the MACC has only 1,900 enforcement officers whereas there are 1.6 million civil servants to be monitored. Please forgive me for being harsh, I just find this excuse so typical of most government agencies.

No organisation, including the MACC, has unlimited resources to play with. Ultimately it is always the 80-20 rule and the need to prioritise.

Certainly not all the 1.6 million civil servants have the same opportunity to be involved in bribery. The MACC ought to know the departments and the agencies that are more prone to corruption.

This is where priority and concentration come in – MACC’s should focus on the 20% to give them the 80% result.

If the MACC chief knows that RM5 million is paid each month by syndicates to foil enforcement actions, it shows that corruption has become institutionalised and endemic. More than that, it shows that corruption is now a retainer.

If he knows the amount paid each month, he ought to know the personnel and the agencies involved.

By the way, it is quite illogical to assert that MACC’s action against corrupt politicians just prior to the next general election is considered as indulging in politicking. On the contrary, it is the lack of action that has given rise to the impression that the MACC is not above the politicians.

Action should be rightly based on offences committed and evidence adduced, nothing else matters.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

Stop the Spin: 1MDB actually capitulated to Abu Dhabi


May 4, 2017

Stop the Spin: 1MDB actually capitulated to all IPIC (Abu Dhabi) demands

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for 1MDB and Abu Dhabi

A Replay of Ali Baba al Najib and his 1MDB forty thieves–Malaysia Boleh

Desperation causes stupidity to rise to the fore.Take 1MDB and the way it spins its so-called settlement with Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), the parent company of Aabar Investments PJS. There was a dispute and it was settled, but there was no renegotiation. 1MDB capitulated to all IPIC demands.

But this has been spun to give the false impression that all matters have been settled between the two. Ministers rushed to make statements about how the eventual settlement will be in favour of 1MDB and how it indicates that no money went into Najib Abdul Razak’s accounts.

Singapore’s The Straits Times, which broke the news on the settlement, even preposterously reported that the settlement will make it more difficult for the US Department of Justice or DOJ to continue with its actions relating to 1MDB. It is difficult to see how because it caused no change in money flows.

The Straits Times reported that the “successful implementation of the proposed settlement could impact legal action being considered against 1MDB by foreign governments, including the DOJ.

“Bankers and legal executives (unnamed) familiar with the situation believe the deal could significantly dilute the international legal challenges confronting Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s administration over the fallout from the 1MDB saga.”

The report continues: “…Here is why. The disputed monies in the Malaysia-Abu Dhabi row are central to legal suits brought by the US Department of Justice over the alleged misappropriation of funds from 1MDB. The Department of Justice claims that the funds siphoned from 1MDB went to fund purchases of real estate and other assets by associates of PM Najib.

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“The settlement agreement between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi would achieve what is known in legal parlance as ‘no predicate offence’, the financial executives said.

“A predicate offence is a crime that is a component of a more serious crime and it is frequently applied in the US to actions involving the provision of funds for money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

“Proponents of the settlement between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi argue that a successful completion of the deal would weaken the impact of any legal action taken by foreign governments over alleged money-laundering at 1MDB because of the lack of evidence,” The Straits Times said.

However, as it stands, US$3.5 billion is still missing and in dispute and IPIC says it never received the money. In this case, clearly the main offence is allegedly stealing money from 1MDB and the predicate offence is the laundering of part of this money in the US.

Everything that the DOJ has reported remains unaltered despite the settlement. Its case remains as strong as ever. The DOJ report says that US$3.657 billion was stolen from 1MDB (the main offence) and part of it was laundered in the US (the predicate offence).

Paying twice for same bonds

Under the settlement, despite outstanding issues, 1MDB agreed to pay RM1.2 billion to IPIC and the US$3.5 billion in two bonds are now guaranteed by 1MDB and Malaysia’s Minister of Finance Inc, instead of jointly with IPIC/Aabar before.

That’s a cost of at least US$1.75 billion (half of the value of the bonds) to 1MDB and leaves 1MDB with no more bargaining power at all. And the US$3.5 billion that 1MDB paid to the wrong Aabar – the one suspiciously incorporated in the British Virgin Islands – is still a matter of dispute.

This will be part of ongoing negotiations. “The parties have also agreed to enter into good faith discussions in relation to payments made by 1MDB Group to certain entities,” IPIC’s filing to the London Stock Exchange states.

Clearly this has not been settled, and as MP Tony Pua, one of the most knowledgeable people about 1MDB, had correctly pointed out, by taking over the guarantee that was previously jointly provided with IPIC, 1MDB is effectively paying twice for the same bonds – some US$7 billion in all! That US$3.5 billion, or over RM15 billion, at current exchange rates still remain missing.

Image result for Malaysia's Second Finance Minister JohariNajib got this former Second Minister by the Bees–Gone Missing

This is where Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani comes in to disclose the existence of a letter confirming that Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (BVI) – the one incorporated in British Virgin Islands, is a subsidiary of IPIC even though the Abu Dhabi firm denies this.

“As far as I am concerned, based on records provided by 1MDB to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) prior to the settlement agreement, Aabar Investments PJS Ltd (BVI) is a subsidiary of IPIC. A fact which was confirmed by the Registrar of Corporate Affairs of the British Virgin Islands by its letter dated Aug 11, 2016,” Johari told Malaysiakini.

But as far as IPIC is concerned, it’s not and that’s what matters. If 1MDB and Malaysia thought otherwise, why would they let IPIC off the hook by assuming the guarantee in full? And there’s no chance IPIC is going to say different in future. The question to ask is, why did 1MDB make a payment to a so-called subsidiary instead of directly to Aabar or IPIC? Was it to deliberately siphon funds out of 1MDB?

And then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said that the settlement shows no money went into the Prime Minister’s account. He is saying that the money is in the form of unit trusts, presumably because 1MDB, in its own scant statement, said that the US$1.2 billion will be monetised from the unit trusts.

But really, that’s not true at all. The DOJ report clearly shows that during different phases of money moving out of 1MDB and into various accounts, a total of US$731 million came into Najib’s accounts between 2009 and 2013. Subsequently, US$620 million moved back into accounts controlled by Jho Low, leaving a net of US$111 million in Najib’s accounts still (see chart).

In the face of desperation, reason has been flung out the window and the increasing ridiculousness of 1MDB’s assertions, those of some ministers and even foreign news reports which appear to have been taken up by 1MDB’s propaganda machine, is a sign – if that was needed – that 1MDB is still very much in dire straits. And that much is being done deliberately to hide the extent of the problems. Still, it will continue to haunt Najib and his administration for a long time more.


P GUNASEGARAM says that truth eventually resurfaces despite all attempts to hold it underwater. Email: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

 

1MDB Scandal–What Game is Theresa May playing?


December 20, 2016

1MDB Scandal–What Game is Theresa May playing?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/19/british-embassy-questioned-malaysian-pm-najib-razak-exonerated-corruption?CMP=fb_gu

A diplomatic cable has revealed the British embassy questioned whether Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak had been cleared of corruption as he claimed.

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The British Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has questioned a claim by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, that his country’s anti-graft agency had cleared him of corruption, according to a diplomatic cable seen by the Guardian.

Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission (MACC) said in August last year that its investigation had found that nearly US$700m had been deposited into Najib’s personal bank account from unnamed “donors”.

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It did not elaborate on the donor or why they transferred funds to Najib’s private accounts but said the money was not from the debt-laden state fund 1MDB, which had been the focus of the scandal.

Five days later, Najib told members of his ruling party that the MACC had cleared him of corruption allegationAdds.But a diplomatic telegram sent to London from the British High Commission in the Malaysian capital suggested the embassy queried that claim.

“Najib announced the MACC had exonerated him of corruption and the funds in his bank account were a donation from the Middle East and not from 1MDB,” it said.“There has been no official MACC statement to this effect.”

Opponents of Najib, who denies taking money for personal gain, say the funds may have originated from 1MDB but were laundered internationally. Malaysia’s Attorney General said in January 2016 that the money was a gift from the Saudi Arabian government.

The UK has been criticised for not speaking out more firmly against one of the world’s biggest financial scandals. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron was chided for meeting Najib shortly after the story broke last July.

The British cable was released under a freedom of information request made by the Guardian but was heavily redacted to include mostly factual reporting of events in Malaysia.

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the redactions were made as some of the information may “prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and other states if it was disclosed.

“In this case, the release of some information within diptel [diplomatic telegram] reporting could harm our relations with Malaysia.”

Najib sought to contain the greatest threat to his power by suspending two newspapers, removing a deputy who openly criticised him, and sacking the country’s top attorney, who had been leading the official investigation.

The man he replaced him with closed the case and ended the MACC investigation in January by clearing Najib, to the anger of opposition figures.

While Cameron’s staff said he had pressed Najib over claims he had stolen government money, the regional trip was intended to boost trade ties and coordinate efforts to fight ISIS.However, several countries are conducting publicly-declared investigations into the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars siphoned from 1MDB, which has debts of over US$11 billion and whose advisory board Najib chaired.

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Switzerland said the sum suspected to have been stolen from 1MDB amounts to around US$4bn, some of which was transferred to accounts held in Switzerland by various former Malaysian public officials.

And the US Attorney General announced it “seeks to recover more than US$1bn laundered through the United States”, the largest corruption investigation in the country’s history.

Najib contends the allegations are part of a opposition-led campaign to force him from office. 1MDB has also denied transferring funds to Najib.

The US investigation details a complex network of international transactions it says were used to launder money from 1MDB into high-end real estate in New York and Los Angeles, a US$35m jet aircraft, and paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Funds are also alleged to have been diverted to make the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, a Hollywood production about a corrupt stockbroker played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The MACC has since announced it will cooperate with the FBI.“The Department of Justice will not allow the American financial system to be used as a conduit for corruption,” US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

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The US complaint document alleged Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz bought a luxury home in Belgravia, London for £23.25m using diverted funds. It said misappropriated monies were also used to buy nearly £2m in services from a UK-based interior decorator.

The UK is reported to have started its own investigation, although this has not been officially confirmed.

The Guardian opened freedom of information requests into potential 1MDB investigations in the UK with the Home Office, HMRC, the Metropolitan Police, and the Serious Fraud Office during the past year.All have been rejected.