Honesty Beats ‘Tact’–Sarawak Report


May 25, 2018

Honesty Beats ‘Tact’–Sarawak Report

http://www.sarawakreport.org/talkback/honesty-beats-tact/

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New Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng would do well to remember he is no longer an opposition politician, as while his vocal tell-all approach on the 1MDB scandal certainly wins points for honesty, it is having the opposite effect on investors…

Instead, the writer said it only risked leaving investors with an “uncertain fiscal outlook”.

“Investors are uneasy about things getting out of hand. Already, foreigners have sold out on the nation’s stocks for 13 consecutive days.

“For Lim to declare in his first press conference that government debt has exceeded one trillion ringgit ($251 billion) because of a sly public bailout of 1MDB gets him full marks for honesty, but not for tact.

Mukherjee’s opinion also ran in line with that of Najib, who warned his successor that revealing the nation’s debt level at RM1 trillion without providing adequate details would only alarm the credit rating agencies and investors’ confidence.

Meanwhile, Arul Kanda today said he is mulling legal action against Lim, as the former felt the claims made against him by Lim were unfair and did not accurately represent his answers to the ministry.

Our comment

To suggest that it is better for the Finance Minister to continue to lie ‘tactfully’, in order to gull investors is preposterous.

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Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng is off to a good start by being honest about Malaysia’s Finances

The run on stocks came after investors realised they had put money into Malaysia based on lies by the previous Prime Minister cum Finance Minister and an administration that failed to stand up to his autocratic power.  Some have been panicking to hear that Malaysia’s economic position is not the rosy picture that Najib had deceitfully pretended it was.

More fool them. Wiser investors had already seen through the blatant dishonesty, which was the reason why the ringgit plunged in 2015 after the 1MDB scandal. The recent partial recovery owed to currency manipulation and false assurances by Najib.

What sort of foundation is deceit towards building future prosperity and why should this new government continue with the cover-ups and thereby inherit the blame for Najib’s excesses?

 

As the new Finance Minister and his team set proper standards of openess and honest management in Malaysia, confidence and investors should soon come back.  Thanks to Najib’s legacy the transition may be tough in the immediate future, but the smart money ought to return soon enough.

The fundamentals for the future are being laid to bring long-term confidence back to Malaysia and that has to start with a frank assessment, followed by steps to ensure efficient and transparent governance (see, for example, the minister’s home state of Penang).  That is what investors like to deal with, not lies.

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Adei, Thamby Arul, it is time for  you and your Board colleagues to own up to the truth–1MDB is a financial mess. The burden is Malaysia’s. It is quite known in civil society that you were engaged by Najib Razak to lie on his behalf.

 

As for Arul Kanda, nothing would amuse Malaysians more than to see him attempt to sue the Finance Minister for suggesting he has been telling lies.

Malaysia’s Najib: Long Political Career Ending in Disgrace?


May 22, 2018

Malaysia’s Najib: Long Political Career Ending in Disgrace?

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

When a dozen police cars showed up in front of the home of former Prime Minister Najib Razak late in the afternoon on May 16, it may have finally spelled the end of an audacious nine-year reign as premier and a political career that began in 1976 and now looks like ending in disgrace.  According to a Kuala Lumpur source,  the primary focus of the investigation is SRC International, a 1Malaysia Development Bhd. subsidiary established in 2011 by Najib to pursue strategic energy investments overseas. It ran into a river of red ink amid scandal. An arrest, the sources say, could be in days or perhaps weeks.

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Najib was elected to fill the seat of his late father, Prime Minister Razak Hussein, at the age of 23, becoming the youngest person ever elected to Malaysia’s parliament. Now 64, he has done a tightrope dance for decades away from accusations of a long string of crimes, not least of which is allegedly participating in the theft of a reported US$4.5 billion from the state-backed investment concern that he founded in 2009 with the help of the flamboyant Penang-born financier Low Taek Jho, who remains on the run somewhere on the planet.

In addition to that, however, there is the residue of a US$141.3 million kickback through Najib and his best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, in the purchase of US$1 billion of French submarines that are virtually useless because Peninsular Malaysia’s waters are too shallow to allow them to be used effectively.  The death of 28-year old Mongolian beauty Altantuya Shaariibuu, reputed to have been a former Najib paramour, has never been properly solved.  Two executives of a subsidiary of the French munitions maker DCNS have been charged in Paris with bribing Najib and Razak Baginda has been charged as well.

Also, the family of the late Ambank founder Hussain Najadi, who was shot dead in a Kuala Lumpur parking lot in 2013, is demanding a proper investigation of the death. Pascal Najadi, Hussain’s son, has alleged that the slain banker was killed because he was complaining about irregularities in financial transactions at the bank. It is the same bank where US$681 million alleged to have been stolen from 1MDB ws deposited into Najib’s personal account in 2013.  Pascal Najadi has issued a formal plea to Mahathir to reopen the assassination via a royal commission.

With 1MDB, the deposed prime minister has kept investigations at bay in Washington, DC, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and states in the Middle East, claiming the US$681 million in his Ambank account came from a grateful Saudi royal family grateful for Malaysia’s supposedly tough stance on jihadis. He

According to local news reports, four properties of Najib’s were raided including condominiums and the prime ministerial office from which he was ousted in a landslide election on May 9 despite a harsh redistricting designed to keep the opposition at bay.  In the end, the Barisan Nasional  led by his United Malays National Organization received only 31 percent of the vote, not enough to overcome the political traps he and his lieutenants had set for the Pakatan Harapan opposition headed by his implacable critic, the nonagenarian former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib and his grasping, portly wife, Rosmah Mansor, have been placed on an immigration blacklist to prevent them from fleeing the country. Mohamed Apandi Ali, the attorney general he appointed hurriedly to forestall a threatened prosecution, has also been sacked.  A chartered airplane scheduled to take the Najibs out of the country was blocked. It is a long way down for a man who golfed with the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and did a grip-and-grin with Obama’s successor Donald Trump.

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For three years, since the 1MDB scandal broke into the open, Najib has played whack-a-mole, putting out fire after fire to keep the scandal at bay. He kicked out prominent members of UMNO, including Muhyiddin Yassin, the party deputy leader and the country’s deputy prime minister. He delivered lavish bribes to top UMNO cadres to keep them from voting him out of power as party leader. He fired Abdul Gani Patail, the attorney general who headed a 2016 investigation into his crimes. A lead investigator in that case ended up in a cement-filled oil drum in a river. That case has never been properly investigated.

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Mahathir told local reporters he is working with both Switzerland and the United States, which is carrying out an extensive investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit into 1MDB, to seek the return of embezzled funds. So far, Justice Department officials have sequestered more than US$1 billion in assets that appear to have been stolen by Najib, Jho Low as he is universally known, and other parties.

It wasn’t just the theft, but the utter flamboyance of it. For several years, there were reports of partying on a vast scale by Jho Low, pouring Cristal champagne into a succession of blondes and escorting Rosmah in New York. Rosmah is said to have bought a pink diamond  bracelet worth more than US$25 million that the US is seeking to get back.  Money was used to produce the lurid Wolf of Wall Street,  starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Paintings by French masters, a Bombardier jet, the 300-foot yacht Equanimity that the US is still trying to get its hands on, condos in New York and homes in Beverly Hills were all part of the haul, much of it now in the hands of the US government although the justice department is still sleuthing in southern California for more.

 “The focus on corruption is important, because we need to get back money which is still in Switzerland, the US, Singapore and maybe Luxembourg. For this, we will contact the governments of the countries to recover the money there,” Mahathir told reporters.

 

In addition, there is a metaphorical time bomb awaiting Najib in the Villa wood Detention Center in Sydney in the form of Sirul Azhar Umar, one of Najib’s former bodyguards and one of the convicted killers of Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was central to the submarine scandal

Sirul has been in the detention center since 2015 after he was detained by Australian authorities following his flight from Malaysia while he was temporarily freed from prison there on appeal of his murder sentence. In 2013, as Asia Sentinel reported at the time, Sirul first talked to reporters and told them he could name the person or persons who offered him and his fellow elite police commando Azilah Hadri.

That was before Hasnal Reza Merican, an UMNO Youth division leader, and Hisham Kamaruddin, a former deputy prosecutor who represented Sirul during his original trial, rushed to Australia to shut him up, conjuring up the specter that lawyers for Malaysia’s biggest political party were advising a convicted murderer. Since that time, UMNO lawyers have been in regular contact with Sirul, who has stopped singing.

Now that UMNO has lost the election and the opposition has taken over, the question is whether those UMNO lawyers have any continuing hold on Sirul – especially since the new government is aggressively seeking to clean out the stables. Australian authorities now are expected to demand that Sirul prove he didn’t mastermind the killing if he is to be granted a protection visa to get him out of prison. UMNO lawyers once again met with Sirul shortly before the election to ask him to keep his mouth shut.

Altantuya, then the jilted mistress of Abdul Razak Baginda, Najib’s best friend and the person alleged by a now-dead private detective to have been her lover earlier, was believed to have been pregnant when she was killed and her body blown up with C4 explosive, possibly to hide the fact that she was pregnant.  Her father, Setev Shaariibuu, a Mongolian university professor, has long demanded justice for those who planned her death.

A full catalog of the misuses of Malaysian public funds and institutions would take more than there is time for.  Three contracts let when he was defense minister appear to have produced at least US$300 million and probably more, either for him or for his friends in UMNO. Opposition figures told Asia Sentinel previously that the three contracts were one for Russian Sukhoi jet fighters, a second for the submarines and a third for navy patrol boats.

That wasn’t all. According to a think tank at the time, the shopping list “included battle tanks from Poland, Russian and British surface-to-air missiles and mobile military bridges, Austrian Steyr assault rifles and Pakistani anti-tank missiles.” Given military contract overruns, it can easily be assumed that there was a sweetener involved with every one of them.

It is unknown if Malaysia has the time and effort to look at all of them. 1MDB, by itself, is spectacular enough.

 

Clare Rewcastle Brown: The Lone brave journalist exposes 1MDB corruption


May 17, 2018

Lone brave journalist exposes 1MDB corruption

An interview with Clare Rewcastle Brown, recipient of the Guardian Award

By Sarah Hofmann

http://www.fraud-magazine.com/cover-article.aspx?id=4295001869

Independent journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, at the risk of her safety and without the protection of a news organization, has exposed the flow of billions of public Malaysian dollars from the government’s 1MDB development fund to the country’s top leaders and many others. She says democracies need strong, cynical, courageous media to help protect the public against the powerful.

Clare Rewcastle Brown has never been a stranger to controversy. She made a name for herself as a dogged reporter for the BBC, Sky News and ITV in the ’80s and ’90s. She married the brother of former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and in 2009, about 17 years after the wedding, found herself defending her husband and brother-in-law from accusations they’d used government expenses improperly. (See Gordon Brown’s family defends him over MPs’ expenses row, The Telegraph, May 11, 2009.)

That might be enough excitement for one lifetime for most people, but Brown’s real story doesn’t fully begin until 2005 when she returned to her birthplace of Sarawak in Malaysia. She was interested in the ongoing, widespread deforestation there and its effect on the native people of the region. As she dug deeper into who was profiting from the destruction of the jungle, she found corruption that began in the local level and climbed all the way up to the national government. (See The Accidental Whistle-Blower: How a Retired London Journalist Uncovered Massive Corruption Half a World Away, by Nash Jenkins, Time magazine, Jan. 6, 2017.)

“It was kind of incremental. I was following a strand that concerned me about what was going on and how our global systems were being managed to the enormous disadvantage of people in the environment and what appeared to be very dodgy practice,” Brown says in a recent interview with Fraud Magazine. “Of course, what I found is every time I uncovered the corruption, I was just getting higher and higher. The reason why nothing was being done about any of these appalling actions was because the corruption went right to the top.”

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Brown founded the Sarawak Report and a radio channel, Radio Free Sarawak, in 2010 to report on local issues in the region. As she continued to follow the money from the deforestation and surrounding corruption, she traced many currents of corruption from local government officials to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a Malaysian state fund publicly worth billions that was supposedly earmarked for construction and infrastructure improvements for the southeastern Asian nation.

When she started running up against roadblocks in her investigation and reporting, she pushed through — thanks to her journalistic instincts and her ties to the people in the region she’d lived in from birth until age eight.

“I could see it was a massive and underreported scandal of vast proportions,” Brown says. “I asked why no one was covering it, and for some time I hoped someone else would. Then I realized all the local people who knew about it felt disempowered.

“What seemed blatantly scandalous and criminal to me, many local people had become resigned to or just learned to accept as a way of life,” she says. “I was trying to remind people that just because it’s happening doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it has to go on happening.”

Brown, a keynote speaker at the 29th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 17-22, in Las Vegas, will receive The Guardian Award, which the ACFE presents annually to a journalist whose determination, perseverance and commitment to the truth has contributed significantly to the fight against fraud. The award inscription reads: “For Vigilance in Fraud Reporting.”

Regional interest leads to national theater

Many parties were tied to 1MDB as investors, brokers or politicians benefiting from the goodwill that the promise of increased development would bring to the country. Big players included Goldman Sachs; PetroSaudi, a mysterious company with ties to the Saudi royal family; a Hong Kong-based Malaysian financier, Jho Low; and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. (See 1MDB: The inside story of the world’s biggest financial scandal, by Randeep Ramesh, The Guardian, July 28, 2016.)

“There were so many people taking 1MDB’s money,” Brown says. “The web of characters and high-profile organizations, the major banks that have been caught up with major failings and their due diligence and worth in all of this. … I mean, it’s very colorful stuff.”

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In the course of her reporting, Brown began uncovering unaccounted money flowing out of the 1MDB fund — not a few thousand here and there but hundreds of millions. About the same time that she’d begun asking questions about where the money had gone, she was hearing about Low’s lavish yacht parties and luxury real estate purchases in New York.

In 2010, Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, bought a production company, Red Granite Pictures, which produced the blockbuster movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of the hit, even thanked Aziz and Low in his acceptance speech after winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor in 2013. (See From IMDb to 1MDB and Leonardo DiCaprio Dragged Into Growing ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Money-Laundering Scandal, by Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, July 21, 2016.)

 

After hearing that acceptance speech, Brown really began to dig into the potential 1MDB scandal on the Sarawak Report. “I wrote my first article raising questions about the money,” Brown says. “I didn’t mince my words raising real concerns about where young Riza Aziz had got the money to fund ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ ”

Brown eventually began seeing strong enough patterns in her research to start openly alleging that a substantial amount of money missing from the 1MDB account had gone directly into the bank accounts of the Prime Minister, his family and their close associates.

“I was actually pretty worried that this story would get buried. … Very powerful legal forces were working hard to dissuade mainstream media from covering it. … The amount of legal hard-hitting that’s gone on to try and shut up the media on this story has been actually almost unprecedented,” she says.

In 2015, Brown caught a big break with the help of Xavier Justo, a whistleblower and former employee of PetroSaudi. Justo gave her more than 90 gigabytes of data from PetroSaudi including 227,000 emails related to the joint venture between PetroSaudi and 1MDB. Now that Brown had hard evidence of the inner workings of the partnership between PetroSaudi and 1MDB, she published a number of exclusive stories on the Sarawak Report. (See The Dodgy USD$700,000,000 Loan Deal At The Heart Of 1MDB’s Mega Debt Crisis EXCLUSIVE, Sarawak Report, Feb. 18, 2015.)

In August 2015, Justo was arrested in Thailand on charges that he attempted to blackmail and extort PetroSaudi in return for not leaking the documents. According to Thai police, Justo confessed to attempting the crime. After a little more than a year in prison, he was deported back to Switzerland. (See Swiss man linked to 1MDB investigation released from Thai prison, Reuters, Dec. 20, 2016.)

Brown also has relied on several other informants she believes adds invaluable insight to her reporting. “In the end it’s all about your sources. There is a tendency to rely on data these days as if it has some hidden magic, but in my experience the data can only go so far, and it is people who give you the insight and who are the key to any story I have done,” Brown says.

“You have to work hard on listening and talking to as many people near to the situation as you can, and you also develop a sixth sense about people who approach you with possible information. Often someone that approaches me who might sound nutty or suspicious can turn out to be that crucial insider who has a massive insight into what is going on,” she says.

“I am always ready to listen before I discount something, and I am always ready to put in the time and respect that such sources deserve as the brave and endangered individuals they often turn out to be. You just have to keep watching your back and checking everything.”

Despite the imprisonment of one of her sources, Brown continued to charge on in her reporting. She published 199 pieces in 2016 on the Sarawak Report and brought her findings to major newspapers around the world. “It was really hard to get this story out, and I had to just keep sort of interfacing, trying to pass information onto other bigger outfits than myself to make sure that it couldn’t be dismissed and that had to be taken seriously,” she says.

“I’d give my stories to other papers really just to make sure it got out there. And at the same time it served to gently bully regulators and say, well look, this is getting out in the media,” she says. “If you’re not going to be covering it, here it is documented here, here are the documents, and I’ve given them to you. And if you don’t do anything everyone’s going to know you didn’t.”

Fallout from investigating

Justo was released from prison in December 2016, but his imprisonment wasn’t the only consequence of 1MDB investigations. As Brown butted heads with elected officials, she was surprised at their reaction to questions from others in the media.

She says the Malaysian government owns the media. “People [in Malaysia] weren’t used to defiant reporting or my lack of ‘due respect’ for criminals who happened to have obtained positions of power. So, I gave everyone else a news story to talk about and report on just for speaking out when other local media were forced to continually self-censor,” she says.

“Also, the reaction was extreme, and that surprised me, since in freer media environments politicians have learnt to play it cooler. In Malaysia, people who were used to being all powerful in their little patch reacted with outrage and fury that anyone should point out their defects, which of course stoked the story,” Brown says.

As her investigation and reporting continued, she was stalked in London. (See British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown given police protection after being followed and photographed in Hyde Park, by Ian Burrell, The Independent, Aug. 5, 2015.) The Malaysian government issued a warrant for her arrest in 2015.

The ACFE saw some of the direct effects of these efforts to discredit Brown’s work when she was scheduled to speak at the 2016 ACFE Fraud Conference Asia-Pacific. A week before the conference in Singapore, she received an anonymous tip that Malaysian officials had heard of her travel plans and would make arrangements with the Singaporean police to arrest her upon landing. Because Singapore has extradition agreements with Malaysia, she opted to stay in London and address the crowd via satellite video. (See Clare Rewcastle Brown Takes Conference Attendees Through Twisted Tale of 1MDB, by Sarah Hofmann, CFE, Fraud Conference News, Nov. 21, 2016.)

he fallout from her work has affected not just her, but her family as well. “It has frightened my kids actually. They, being younger, take ugly threats and nasty depictions of their mother much more to heart. I just tell them it’s cheap,” Brown says.

“On the other front, I know that desperate and criminal people can do desperate things. So, while I live my life fairly unaffected, I do have to take precautions and avoid going in harm’s way,” she says. “Some very brave people have met awful ends or disappeared in Malaysia, and we all know that many journalists have been the subject of revenge and attempts to silence them.”

As part of the smear campaigns against her, she’s been accused of being on the payroll of Najib’s political competitors. “[Najib’s] put a great deal of money attempting to undermine, discredit and attack me. I’m the one with the facts,” she says. “[According to him] I’m making it all up and am involved in some kind of nefarious plot with some kind of opposition. He keeps changing who’s paying me but, apparently, I’m being heavily paid to do this, the fabrication, forge. It’s all a bunch of nonsense that anyone can see that.”

She says she’s also been labeled as biased, unprofessional and disparagingly called more of an activist than a journalist. “I would prefer morally motivated individuals as journalists than moral-vacuum robotic reporters. I have no problem admitting that I am biased against criminal behavior, abusive behavior and the violation of accepted human rights,” she says.

“There has also been a great drive in society to create a class of ‘professional’ dispassionate journalists who are opinion free. Their duty is made out that it is to ‘report both sides’ with total moral equivalence for the ‘public to decide,’ ” Brown says.

The challenges she’s faced, though, haven’t dampened her spirit or belief in the power of investigation and reporting on corruption and wrongdoing. “Democracies need a strong, cynical, brave media cohort to look out for the public interest against people entrusted with positions of great power,” she says. “Every journalist treads a dangerous path every day if they write anything about the rich and powerful. Lying in wait are PR companies, lawyers, political voices and doubtless other journalists who are attached to the views of the rich and powerful who will come down on them like a ton of bricks. If they get it wrong, it can destroy them financially and reputationally in an instant.”

How 1MDB fits into the international corruption landscape

After years of raising questions about where the money from 1MDB had gone, Brown started seeing the story pick up steam globally in 2015. The connections she helped draw between the missing money and off-shore account arrangements (largely facilitated by Low) sparked even more public interest when the massive document leak dubbed the Panama Papers broke in April 2016. (See Panama Papers Show How Rich United States Clients Hid Millions Abroad, by Eric Lipton and Julie Creswell, The New York Times, June 5, 2016.)

“The Panama Papers confronted this whole world of offshore shady parallel finance. 1MDB fitted rather well into it because that was a case study that I’d worked from the bottom up,” Brown says. “1MDB was a perfect story of how a huge sum of criminal money was using the system — the offshore Panama system — to launder its way into the global economy.”

n 2015, Swiss authorities froze millions of assets and began to probe holdings linked to 1MDB. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office and the U.S. Justice Department publicly joined in a probe of the fund. In 2016, the Monetary Authority of Singapore also investigated 1MDB funds in their banks and seized approximately S$240 million in connection with the investigation. S$120 million allegedly belonged to Low and his family. Luxembourg, the Seychelles and UAE all said they were holding their own investigations as well. (See How Malaysia’s 1MDB Fund Scandal Reaches Around the World, by Shamim Adam and Cedric Sam, Bloomberg, July 22, 2016.)

Despite the flurry of interest shown in the 1MDB case in 2015 and 2016, 2017 was a relatively quiet year. Malaysian officials assured international regulatory bodies that all the money that was supposed to be in 1MDB had been accounted for appropriately. Najib began gearing up for another election, and public attention seemed to wane.

 

Brown isn’t concerned, however. “Unfortunately, these sorts of investigations take a very long time,” she says. “2017 may have been quiet, but there is a long way still to go with 1MDB.” She’s also wary of any optimism that her reporting on 1MDB could influence the upcoming election involving Najib.

“The election is a huge question in all this. It would be tragic for Malaysia if they are unable to get a massive kleptocrat, supported by a gang of thieves, out of office,” she says. “However, the system is massively skewed and gerrymandered, and cheating and bribing by the incumbent regime is established practice.”

However, even if Najib wins reelection, Brown’s work is certainly not for nothing. She believes her reporting on 1MDB will have long-reaching effects larger than just Malaysian political concerns. “What is useful in this process is that the entire unraveling of this scandal is continuing to shine a light on certain systemic failures that need dealing with,” she says. “For example, fraudster Jho Low is still traversing the world on a St. Kitts and Nevis passport that gives him access to the Shengen area and beyond. He was able to just buy that, and the pressure that has gone into supporting these various dubious passport regimes around the globe has started overlapping with a criminal element itself,” she says.

“This all is being exposed, along with the disgraceful and deliberate failures of bank after bank when dealing with their prime customers through their ‘wealth management’ divisions. Regular people go through anti-money laundering hell to move $10k legitimately, but there are no such problems for the rich billionaires who have been laughing with banks at how they tick the ‘compliance’ boxes in 99 percent of cases.”

Reflections on her work

Despite the hardship, roadblocks and threats she’s had to endure, Brown has no intention of slowing down her investigation. Rather, she sees it as part of a larger picture to combat systematic fraud. “I think it is important not to let the lessons of the scandal be forgotten or the overall problem players off the hook. This example has been a rare opportunity to demonstrate exactly why unregulated off-shore systems are a menace. They enable anyone who has an illegitimate source of wealth to hide it and then inject their wealth — and their own unwanted presence — into legitimate societies, where their wealth provides them with an undesirable level of influence,” Brown says.

“It is like a cancer of corruption that we are allowing to infiltrate our own social orders via this parallel world of illegitimate finance. If we do not cut it out then the consequences are very worrying — this is money that is going on to influence decision makers in our countries to give such people more power and position.”

While many of her feelings and experiences while investigating and reporting on 1MDB have been frustration, anger, stubbornness and even fear, the resolution she’s encountered has encouraged her. “I am most proud of the Malaysians who have bravely taken up this issue and transformed their political landscape in response to the evidence of corruption — they deserve a reformed government.”

She’s also reminded of the importance of journalism in the fabric of investigations into corruption and widespread abuses of power. “Journalistic experience was all I really had to offer when I first joined the various people who were concerned and trying to raise awareness about what was going on in Sarawak and indeed elsewhere in Malaysia and Borneo,” she says. “There’s a role there for journalists to interface with people who are trying to get information out for whatever reason and there are usually mixed reasons for wanting to get information out.

“I managed to dig out 1MDB, but remember, it’s the tip of the iceberg as Jho Low himself complained,” Brown says. “He said everyone else is doing it, so why is he the whipping boy? The answer is, someone had to get caught. But now the music must stop.”

Sarah Hofmann, CFE, is the ACFE’s public information officer. Reach her at: shofmann@ACFE.com.

Arul Kandak Kandangsamy and his 1MDB Bull


May 5, 2018

GE-14: 4 days to go to Polling Day, May 9, 2018. Vote Pakatan Harapan and resoundly reject corrupt Najib Razak and his UMNO-BN

Arul Kandak Kandangsamy and his 1MDB Bull

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

[youtbe=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKwvK7SvUQw]

QUESTION TIME | 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy has launched a vitriolic, personal, and unwarranted attack against me which, of course, has no substance but let me deal with the most preposterous of his claims first – the so-called achievements he has made at 1MDB.

I have reproduced in full the “achievements” he claims since 2015 when he joined 1MDB in italics followed by my comments in each case:

1. Transparency: the company has become much more open, transparent and accessible, both to the media and to the public.

I wanted to roll around in laughter at this. Truth is, not one 1MDB annual report has been released since he came on board. Instead during his time, the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB was made secret under the Official Secrets Act, probably on his advice. He never told the government to make the report public.

These two documents are all that is needed to condemn or exonerate 1MDB.

2. Cooperation: full assistance and cooperation have been provided to investigators from Bank Negara, the National Audit Department, the Public Accounts Committee and the Royal Malaysian Police.

Did you have a choice, Arul? Are you not supposed to help investigations by the relevant authorities?  Would you not be contravening the law if you hid some things? So for you, abiding by the law is an achievement?

3. Massive debt reduction: 1MDB debts have been massively reduced from RM50 billion to RM31 billion.

Image result for Najib Razak and 1MDB

 

I already explained this in the last article I wrote. You did this by selling the power assets, extinguishing the bank loans. The sale simultaneously removes the loans from the books of the power companies. That’s nothing.

4. No short-term loans: all short-term loans and bank debt have been fully repaid with RM43 billion of long-term assets now fully backing RM31 billion of long-term debt.

The excess of assets over liabilities is simply because of the revaluation of land obtained cheaply from the government in the first place for both TRX as well as Bandar Tun Razak, not because you did anything, Arul.

However, it has been widely reported that the auditor-general said that US$7 billion of 1MDB assets could not be accounted for or verified – almost RM30 billion gone missing, evaporated into thin air. Where is the money Arul, you have not told us yet.

5. TRX a success: the Exchange 106 Tower in TRX will be the tallest tower in Malaysia upon completion in 2018. International investors such as HSBC and Prudential have collectively committed billions of ringgit to their headquarters in TRX. Lendlease, one of the most well-respected global property developers is in a joint venture with TRX to develop 17 acres of land.

 

TRX was a ruse for 1MDB to borrow money and then have it allegedly stolen by the kleptocrats. There is no evidence to show that any money borrowed went to TRX – TRX does not need RM30 billion for development – all it needs to do is to sell the land for others to develop.

6. 30,000 high-income jobs will be generated in TRX, upon completion, with RM3 billion being spent on infrastructure in and around TRX.

This is, again, a lie. If you have a building, people will work in it especially if you force them to move here, but that does not mean you created those high-paying jobs. Instead, by building so much of commercial space – too much – you will create excess and cause a glut in office supply. Go read the Bank Negara report on that, Arul.

7. Bandar Malaysia relocation completed: practically all of the eight new and upgraded bases for the air force and police with 1MDB as the developer and LTAT as the contractor are now completed thereby paving the way for the development of Bandar Malaysia.

Again, your bond money did not go into this project – it allegedly went into the pockets of your benefactors. All these could have been done without 1MDB and at much lower cost.

8. 200,000 high-income jobs will be generated in Bandar Malaysia, which will be a premier transport-oriented development and will house the terminus of the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail link.

Again, this is a lie. High-income jobs are not being created. What happens is high-income earners will shift and work in this area, which is not the same thing. And you don’t need to lose RM40 billion in the process.

Want to know how to make RM90 billion from Bandar Malaysia? Read this article I wrote.

A dishonourable career

Now that the substance of this debate is over, we know that Arul, despite what he said, did not stick to the facts. Let’s move on to the vitriol and the personal attacks.

When I set up KiniBiz together with Malaysiakini in 2013, I was already 60 years old, and had been managing editor at The Star and group executive editor at The Edge. I had no desire to go any further than that in either organisation. Earlier I held other editor jobs and was head of equity research at local and foreign brokerages.

I lost money at KiniBiz, Arul, but I made no secret of the fact that KiniBiz was shut down – we announced it on the website. But it was not your money I lost or the country’s, and I am not defending someone else’s alleged robbery at 1MDB and thereby becoming complicit in that act the way you are.

I am proud that my team and I tried to do something about good business journalism in Malaysia, although we could not, at the time, make it financially viable for various reasons. We were the ones who broke the 1MDB story in March 2013 as you very well know. We helped uncover this story which you are so desperately trying to bury – and we won’t let you do that.

Image result for 1MDB Power Assets

This time, I am not going to mince my words about this excuse of a man who not only lacks, sorry, is devoid of, not only integrity and morality but intelligence. People tell me he is smart and a great debater but all I have seen demonstrated repeatedly is the stupidity and banality of the desperate, trying to cover up with words his lack of achievement.

He could have made an honourable career in the financial industry but was duped and drawn in as the CEO of 1MDB to do his master’s bidding of engaging in systematic deception to deny the biggest kleptocracy the earth has ever known. No amount of money is worth that, Arul.

While Jho Low was until recently sailing around the world in a billion-ringgit yacht, enjoying the spoils of the 1MDB money, this man sits here and blithely says 1MDB did not lose any money. What a clown!

And if Pakatan Harapan wins this election, you will see this man flee from this country with his tail between his legs. He will not have the balls to stay and face the music. Which is why he is campaigning so hard for his political masters for it is also his own future that he is fighting for.

 

For us Malaysians, we will say good riddance and chalk up one more reason we should vote against this government which continues to allegedly steal from its people and appoints ball-carriers to important positions in government-linked companies, which is a sure way to ensure they fail.

Image result for 1MDB Power Assets

And if BN wins, you still lose Arul, because you lent your name to the biggest kleptocracy in the world and your support to an immoral, incompetent and corrupt regime. Your name will go down in the halls of shame but perhaps you don’t care about that, do you?


P GUNASEGARAM says the country is in danger when alleged thieves and their co-conspirators flaunt themselves in the open instead of being brought to account and locked up. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

US Prosecutors to Renew Battle to Seize Huge 1MDB Yacht


April 25, 2018

US Prosecutors to Renew Battle to Seize Huge 1MDB Yacht

https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/us-prosecutors-battle-1mdb-yacht-equanimity/

Image result for equanimity yacht

 

US prosecutors, thwarted in their months-long campaign to seize the enormous motor yacht Equanimity from financier Low Taek Jho – one of the masterminds of the massive 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal – plan to return to court in Los Angeles on April 30 to start over after being defeated, at least temporarily, in one of Indonesia’s most notorious courts.

Jho Low, as the Malaysian-born defendant is known, has led officials on a merry chase, with the crew turning off the vessel’s automatic identification system (AIS) in an attempt to hide its location, according to the complaint, which was made available to Asia Sentinel. The yacht has been seen in a long list of locations outside the long reach of the US government including Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan and a string of tiny Indonesian islands. A fugitive from a criminal indictment in the US, the pudgy Jho Low has made himself scarce although what he will do now that his main mode of transportation is under threat is unsure.

Image result for equanimity yacht in Bali

The Equanimity docked in Benoa Bay, near Bali, earlier this year, however, and someone spotted it. US officials alerted Indonesian police, who seized the US$250 million vessel on Feb. 28 and impounded it. Built in 2014 by the Dutch firm Oceano, it includes a helicopter landing pad, its own pool, beauty salon, a Turkish bath, a gym, a movie theater and a sauna. The ship is 91 meters long and carries a crew of 33. Its staterooms sleep 26 people.

Lawyers for the owners, a Cayman Islands-registered holding company called Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd, argued in the South Jakarta District Court that both the Department of Justice and Indonesian police had acted illegally in seizing the yacht. After the verdict in the Jakarta court, they released this statement:

“The owners of Equanimity welcome the Indonesian court’s ruling, which upholds the rule of law and confirms that the FBI-instigated seizure of the vessel was improper and unlawful. The incident is yet another example of the unjustified global overreach by the US Government, which has gone to extreme and improper lengths to seize assets around the world while steadfastly avoiding having to prove that there are any merits to its case.”

Image result for jho low with najib and rosmah

The US government contends the ship is part of a vast treasure trove of assets including real estate in New York and California – a US$35 million executive jet, paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, a vast outlay of personal jewelry adorning Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is known as “Malaysian Official 1” in US Justice Department documents. Also seized were profits from the Hollywood production company Red Granite Productions, which made the movies Wolf of Wall Street and Dumb and Dumber To. In all the US government is said to be after US$1.7 billion of assets connected to the family.

The case has been called the biggest kleptocracy action ever brought by the US government against a foreign official. Jho Low, as the putative owner of Equanimity is known, was the brains behind the establishment of 1MDB in 2008, working with Najib to establish it with the backing of Malaysia’s Finance Ministry. Not long afterward, Jho Low showed up in New York, buying jeroboams of Cristal champagne for a bevy of blondes.  Through his own Jynwel Capital, he and his family own part of EMI Music Publishing, Myla Lingerie and the Park Lane Hotel in New York.

Image result for Najib Razak Bullshit

 The looting started not long afterward, with at one point – according to US officials – US$681 million disappearing from 1MDB into Malaysian Official 1’s personal account at Ambank in Kuala Lumpur in 2013. Najib claimed the money had come from the Saudi royal family as a reward for the country’s tough stance against Islamic terrorism.

After the seizures began, Equanimity made for the high seas to evade the feds, according to the Justice Department’s motion for a protective order in the Central District Court in Los Angeles. The current operators, acting on Jho Low’s behalf, “have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Equanimity outside the hands of the government and outside the territory of the United States.”

The crew “have structured the Equanimity’s travels to avoid any jurisdictions where the Equanimity was likely to be seized.  When they miscalculated in Indonesia and saw the yacht seized, they filed suit to resist the seizure and prevent Indonesia from surrendering the yacht to the government.  And even when they have engaged with the government about a possible interlocutory sale of the yacht, they insisted that the yacht not be brought into the United States.”

 The forfeiture suit seeks to forfeit the yacht to the United States – “something that may prove impossible if the yacht is kept outside the United States.”

In the hearing last week in Jakarta, the defendants said they had filed documents in the courts of both countries to demonstrate that the US is acting illegally to seize the yacht. They argued that while they were willing to sell the yacht to provide funds to meet the seizure, the US seizure and sale would drastically affect the value and “expose the crew to danger at sea.”

“This is completely unnecessary, because the claimants have always been, and remain, ready and willing to have the vessel sold while the DOJ’s case is pending, provided that the sale is conducted under readily-achievable market conditions that will reflect the vessel’s true market value and generate a fair price.”

Image result for us attorney general on 1mdb

1MDB — Kleptocracy at its worst–US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions

In its motion to be filed on April 30, the Justice Department’s lawyers expect to ask that the court appoint the government as custodian of the M/Y Equanimity and order the claimants to tender it into US custody so that it can be brought to the United States and made available for forfeiture, which is expected to be an auction in which it would be sold for well below the quarter-billion  dollar purchase price.

First, the US officials must get through the Indonesian court system, which saw 18 judges hit with disciplinary actions following arrests in just four months in 2017 by the Corruption Eradication Commission, an independent, demonstrably incorruptible agency. In all, 40 officials were punished by Indonesia’s Supreme Court for allegation of involvement in graft cases.

In a country where Malaysia’s Premier Najib has many friends – as does Jho Low — the South Jakarta District Court, which is handling the case, is considered arguably the most corrupt in a court system considered one of the world’s worst.

Last August, for instance, investigators for the Corruption Eradication Commission arrested the court’s registrar and two lawyers on bribery allegations.  In 2013, the court freed a PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia official, citing lack of evidence of any criminal activity in a bribery case.

In 2015, in one of the most egregious cases, the court ordered the imprisonment of Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman and Ferdinant Tjiong, a teaching assistant, where found guilty of raping three children in a case regarded as rigged to help a plaintiff win a US$125 million lawsuit against the Jakarta Intercultural School. The school’s main campus, opened 60 years ago as the Jakarta International School, now stands on some of Jakarta’s most valuable real estate. The two remain in prison in a case in which the evidence was demonstrably tainted.

The US Justice Department officials, however, believe it is a matter of cleaning up a procedural matter, and that once that is finished, they will sail away with Equanimity.

Malaysia’s Liar in Chief Proposes a ‘Fake News’ Bill


March 28, 2018

By: John Berthelsen

Image result for Thai Cartoon of Lying Najib Razak

Image result for Thai Cartoon of Lying Najib Razak

The concept of “fake news” has suddenly gained currency because of the rise to the US Presidency of Donald Trump, who by actual count issued more than 2,100 verifiably false statements during his first year in office while branding every negative story about his Presidency “false news.  In fact, according to the fact-checking organization PoliFact, during his first year in office Trump’s public statements were wholly true only 5 percent of the time, fully true 11 percent of the time, half-true 15 percent, mostly false 22 percent, outright false, 32 percent and “pants on fire” 15 percent of the time.

Image result for Thai Cartoon of Lying Najib Razak

That’s a Fake Statement, Mr. Najib. You should be charged when the Fake News Bill become law.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has run up  a pretty good record of his own, claiming for instance that he had never met the murdered Mongolian party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu who was killed by his bodyguards in 2006 despite credible evidence that he had, that he was innocent of all wrongdoing in the purchase of French submarines although he was cited as having been the recipient of bribes by French prosecutors, that he had been cleared of all charges in the enormous 1MDB scandal in which US$4.5 billion had disappeared, that the US$681 million that found its way into his private bank accounts was a gift from Saudi royalty, and many more.

Image result for Lying Najib Razak and Tun Razak

” Jib, I did not teach you to lie”.

With national elections looming possibly as early as within days and with an increasingly unpopular government looking to limit free expression, the bill is regarded by opponents as yet another method of limiting criticism, particularly of the Prime Minister, Najib Razak.  It is aimed at quelling criticism on social media, about the last avenue left for an increasingly hemmed-in opposition.

In its inclusion of Malaysians and foreigners alike, even if they are outside of Malaysia, the bill is also aimed at critical news organizations like Sarawak Report, which has published dozens of deeply embarrassing and often incriminating stories about Malaysian crookedry, and Asia Sentinel, both of which have been barred from circulating in the country. Malaysian academic Din Merican, who affiliated with a university in Cambodia, was added to the list last week.

Image result for Malaysia's Fake News Bill

Defender of the Fake (not Faith)–Mr. Said Keruak

The fake news legislation is one spike in a long list of other attempts to neuter the Pakatan Harapan opposition headed by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, including a contorted redistricting that leaves some Barisan Nasional districts with as few as 4,000 voters while cramming up to 150,000 opposition adherents into others.  The government has used sedition, official secrets and public security laws to attempt to intimidate opposition members and leaders.

Among those protesting the fake news legislation are at least 13 good government organizations including the International Commission of Jurists, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, the Kuala Lumpur-based SUARAM, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Tech giants including Facebook, Amazon, Google and others have expressed concern prior to the publication of the bill, which critics say could hurt mainstream organizations as well as the opposition, limiting access to wide amounts of industrial, business and other information as well as criticism.

“The bill is flawed in its design and will be open to abuse by the Malaysian government which maintains a poor track record in upholding freedom of expression,” said Sevan Doraisamy, SUARAM’s Executive Director, in a prepared release.

Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser added in the SUARAM release that, “The term ‘fake news’ is in itself problematic.  It is defined in an overbroad manner in the draft law, and therefore vulnerable to arbitrary interpretation and enforcement.”  Gil further said, “Given past experience in Malaysia, it is highly likely to be used to suppress legitimate criticism of the government on matters of opinion or where the facts are contested.”

The bill, according to the judicial organization, “makes no provision for exceptions or defenses such as honest mistake, parody, artistic merit, or public interest. The bill would allow up to 10 years’ imprisonment for publication of fake news.

“The penalties are wildly disproportionate”, said Gil. “Indeed, under international standards, imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty for such offences.”

The bill has been introduced during the final days of the sitting of Parliament, which is expected to be dissolved soon to make way for the election, leaving little time for deliberation or consultation.

“Allowing this bill to be passed would only serve as an affront to democratic values. It will be another strike on Malaysia’s already shoddy human rights record,” said Doriasamy. “Adopting a law that would unduly limit the right to freedom of opinion and expression is not the optimal way to counter disinformation and propaganda. The best way is to disseminate accurate information and to make such information accessible to everyone,” said Gil.

In addition to the prospect of 10 years imprisonment, offenders may be subject to a fine up to RM500,000 (US$127,681) if convicted of knowingly creating, offering, publishing, printing, distributing, circulating, or disseminating any ‘fake news’ or publication of ‘fake news.’

https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/malaysia-najib-proposes-fake-news-bill/