Malaysia’s Grand Poobah’s Chequebook Diplomacy in Washington DC


September 15, 2017

Malaysia’s Grand Poobah’s Chequebook Diplomacy in Washington can be strategic, admits Ambassador Emeritus Dennis Ignatius

www,malaysiakini.com

 

COMMENT | Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent White House soirée has brought Malaysia an unprecedented level of scrutiny and negative publicity. All major US newspapers, for example, unanimously panned the visit, highlighting the inappropriateness of inviting someone linked to an ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation (into 1MDB-related money-laundering charges).

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Najib’s Chequebook Diplomacy–Helping America Great Again impresses Donald J. Trump

It is a measure of just how far his reputation has fallen internationally after once having been feted everywhere as a reformist and moderate Muslim democrat. It is also a reminder of how little all of this really matters in a world dominated by realpolitik and the pursuit of strategic advantage.

Certainly, Najib himself didn’t appear to lose too much sleep over all the bad press. For him, the visit was clearly about positioning himself for the next elections and burnishing his credentials as a well-respected international leader able to run with some of the most powerful leaders in the world.

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Taken together with earlier high-profile meetings with President Xi Jinping, King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the meeting with Trump, as well as Britain’s Theresa May, lends credence to Najib’s narrative that under his stewardship, Malaysia has become “a rising star” and a “global player.”

While the urban crowd and opposition supporters will no doubt shake their heads in disbelief, it will play well with Najib’s rural base, effectively neutralising the 1MDB issue, arguably Najib’s most troublesome political challenge.

Najib’s grand strategy

Beyond the optics and the controversy over 1MDB, the visit also revealed a side to Najib that will surely drive the opposition to further despair: he is proving to be a far better strategist than he’s been given credit for.

He has parlayed the powers of his office and all the levers of state control at his disposal to successfully play off both China and the US to his advantage.

It might be recalled that he deliberately pivoted to China after his falling-out with the Obama Administration.

In Beijing, last year, he complained about foreign meddling, of being treated unfairly, of being lectured to by Western powers. In not so many words, he went on to contemptuously dismiss the US and other Western powers as has-beens with no future in Asia and hinted about a new strategic partnership with China.

It appears that Washington, already alarmed at China’s growing clout in the region, quickly got the message. Washington will now play along to get along.

Furthermore, with a more amoral (some would say unscrupulous) occupant in the White House to do business with, and with Beijing beginning to get too demanding (as witnessed by the unravelling of the Bandar Malaysia deal), Najib might have also seen the need to recalibrate the balance between the US and China.

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Playing the China-US Hedging Game

Better relations with Washington will now give Najib more room to manoeuvre. It will also allow Najib to undercut opposition criticism that he is too close to China.

He has thus put both Washington and Beijing on notice: be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. It is, in fact, the global application of his domestic political approach: as he once told Chinese Malaysians, “If you show support [for UMNO-BN] we have no problem giving more… if not, difficult lah.”

Though it is still too early to predict how all this will turn out, no other prime minister has displayed such a flair for big power gamesmanship as he.

Buying his way to respectability

In order to demonstrate to both the US and China that they have much to gain both strategically and economically by being supportive of his administration, Najib has resorted to a form of chequebook diplomacy hitherto only used by rich and powerful countries – promising contracts, investments and big-ticket purchases in exchange for support and endorsement.

With China, Najib generously granted PRC corporations billions of ringgit in infrastructure contracts, even favouring PRC contractors over our own.

He has also earned the undying gratitude of President Xi by wholeheartedly embracing the latter’s One Belt One Road (Obor) initiative, dismissing concerns about the viability and lack of transparency of many Obor projects.

And under his watch, Malaysia made its first purchase of defence equipment from China.

In Washington, Najib opened his chequebook once again promising to buy more than RM42 billion in new aircraft for Malaysian Airlines (MAS), RM300 million in fighter jets for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), and to direct RM12 billion to RM16 billion in new investments from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Kazanah Nasional to US infrastructure projects.

He also promised to “persuade” AirAsia to switch from British-made Rolls Royce engines to American-made GE engines.

No doubt, this was all music to Trump’s ears, a small contribution to making American great again.

American officials, of course, deny the visit will have any impact on the DOJ investigations but does anybody really believe that Najib would have made all those expensive promises simply to make Trump feel good?

After this, expect European and Japanese salesmen-politicians to come knocking at our doors with hat in hand and high praise for Najib on their lips. For so long as there’s money to be made, inconvenient issues like human rights and good governance will not be allowed to get in the way.

Cost of Najib’s generosity

The downside, however, is that Malaysia’s already beleaguered opposition, as well as its human rights defenders, can now expect no sympathy or moral support from the US and other democracies.

Najib has neatly turned the tables on his detractors; far from isolating him internationally, he has now marginalised them at home.

Worse still, the nation will have to pay a heavy price for Najib’s extravagant chequebook diplomacy.  We are already heavily indebted to China; now we will be driven into even greater debt with billions of new borrowing to pay for Najib’s Washington promises.That the government of a cash-strapped developing country, which has had to impose a new tax (GST) on its own hard-pressed and long-suffering populace just to stay afloat, would offer such an extravagant economic boost to one of the richest economies in the world is both unprecedented and mind-boggling.

DENNIS IGNATIUS, a former Malaysian ambassador, firmly believes that we should put our trust not in the leadership of politicians but in the sanctity of great institutions – our secular and democratic constitution, a democratically-elected parliament, an independent judiciary, a free press and a government fully accountable to the people. He blogs here.

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MP Nurul Izzah to The Donald–Support Democracy, Justice and Freedom, not Kleptocracy in Malaysia


September 13, 2017

MP Nurul Izzah to The Donald–Support Democracy, Justice and Freedom, not Kleptocracy in Malaysia

by Nurul Izzah Anwar, MP

Nurul Izzah Anwar is a member of the Malaysian Parliament and Vice President of the People’s Justice Party. She is a Graduate of SAIS, John Hopkins University

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/09/11/heres-what-president-trump-should-tell-malaysias-prime-minister/?utm_term=.857897e8f561

Image result for Najib I am not a crookThe Donald is hosting this Malaysian Prime Minister at The White House. A slap in the face of all freedom loving Malaysians–the unintended consequence of his invitation

 

On Tuesday (September 12), President Trump will host Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in the White House. The two men will discuss cooperation on counterterrorism and economic development. But what should be foremost on the agenda is the hatred and fear fueled by Najib’s own party’s support of extremist groups that routinely harass and frighten the country’s significant Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. Any conversation with a purported partner against extremist violence who fails to address these concerns at home is pointless.

As a Malaysian, I am sorry to say that my country faces a desperate situation. For the 60 years since independence, we have been under single-party rule. The corruption scandal surrounding our sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, the largest of its kind ever investigated by the U.S. Justice Department, alleges that Najib’s government routinely pilfers public funds for its own enrichment and the funding of its political survival. Our political leaders are so accustomed to power that they will do anything to keep it. Our elections are routinely corrupted just enough to maintain the ruling status quo. Print and broadcast media are more than 95 percent owned or controlled by the ruling party, and peaceful political protest is routinely a cause for detention under laws meant to fight terrorism.

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I know this from first-hand experience. As an opposition member of Parliament, I was arrested under sedition laws and imprisoned with actual terror suspects simply for daring to raise questions in the legislature about the political imprisonment of my father, detained opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Before he was thrown in jail, my father championed a multi-ethnic and multi-religious opposition movement in Malaysia that garnered 52 percent of the votes in the 2013 parliamentary election — a victory set aside because of gerrymandering. His arbitrary detention has been condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Delegation are staying at Trump International Hotel Washington DC 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC, 20004, United States of America. What a coincidence!

 

All the while, a growing cohort of educated young people facing high unemployment is growing deeply mistrustful of their leaders. These energetic young men and women are frustrated by the absence of democratic institutions. That they may feel compelled to seek recourse for this dissatisfaction outside the political system represents a major threat to Malaysia’s future.

Tensions between different ethnic and religious groups have also reached alarming levels. Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party has not just turned a blind eye to extremism — they have actively encouraged it. Religious extremists are permitted to promulgate their views with impunity, and the government has actually incorporated those views and personalities into its own platform. As if this weren’t astonishing enough, in 2014, Najib himself encouraged his own party followers to emulate “brave” Islamic State fighters.

If Najib’s autocracy and extremist actions are not condemned and resisted, all of us are at risk.

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Yet despite our challenges, I love my country and I know that we have incredible potential. In fact, that is what makes this issue so important. Unlike many autocratic Muslim-majority countries, Malaysia can be a true functioning pluralistic democracy with real economic strength and growth potential. Our coalition of opposition parties follows the leadership of our imprisoned leader, Anwar Ibrahim, in asserting that the only acceptable way forward for Malaysia is as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, democratic and freedom-supporting state.

But to achieve this, the Malaysian people need the help of true friends and partners around the world. Najib must hear from every nation that his actions are a threat to international security and undermine genuine efforts at countering violent extremism.

President Trump has the opportunity to deliver this message. As a former golfing buddy of the prime minister, he has an established rapport with Najib. And Trump set a precedent in his recent recalibration of aid to Egypt, where he laudably recently recognized the opportunity to stress civil society reforms by cutting some U.S. aid to Egypt. The same frankness should be applied when assessing Najib as a potential recipient of anti-terror funding from the United States.

To advance his foreign policy goals and the mission of international security cooperation, Trump must hold Najib to account. Trump must make clear that Washington will no longer be silent when U.S.-Malaysia cooperation on countering violent extremism is undermined by the Malaysian government itself. To start, Najib should immediately cease persecution of journalists and opposition leaders, and release all political prisoners, including my father. Trump must also make clear that the United States does not tolerate partners who harbor and protect terrorists, much less partners who actively encourage such behavior.

Without reforms, the Malaysian government is not a reliable partner on counterterrorism, international security or economic development. A clear message, followed by strong action, is the only way to transform Malaysia from a liability to a credible ally.

 

Trump appeases an authoritarian Malaysian Prime Minister to The White House


September 13, 2017

Trump appeases an authoritarian Malaysian Prime Minister to the White House

By Editorial Board, The Washington Post

The Post’s View

Opinion

 

Malaysian PM Najib Razak reviews an honour guard at The White House. Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

PRESIDENT TRUMP has made a habit of embracing authoritarian rulers he regards as friendly, without regard for their subversion of democratic norms or gross human rights violations. Yet his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the White House on Tuesday sets a new low. Not only is Mr. Najib known for imprisoning peaceful opponents, silencing critical media and reversing Malaysia’s progress toward democracy. He also is a subject of the largest foreign kleptocracy investigation ever launched by the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. investigators have charged that Mr. Najib and close associates diverted $4.5 billion from a Malaysian government investment fund for their own uses, including $730 million that ended up in accounts controlled by the Prime Minister. Justice first filed civil suits seeking the freezing of some $1.7 billion in assets in the United States, including real estate, artworks and stakes in Hollywood movies; more recently, the department asked that those actions be put on hold while it pursues a criminal investigation. Mr. Najib has not been charged with a crime and denies wrongdoing, but the U.S. investigation prompted speculation in Malaysia that he could be arrested if he set foot on American soil — not good PR for a leader who is obligated to call an election sometime in the next few months.

[Here’s what President Trump should tell Malaysia’s prime minister]

With his White House invitation, Mr. Trump has neatly gotten Mr. Najib off that hook and provided him with what the regime will portray as a tacit pre-election endorsement. Despite his repression, Mr. Najib could use that sort of help: In the last election, in 2013, his party lost the popular vote and retained power only because of the gerrymandering of election districts.

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President Trump and other top American officials, left, met at the White House with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia and his delegation, right .The Post’s Editorial states: “The best way for the United States to build a stronger alliance with Malaysia and bolster its independence from China is to encourage those in the country who support liberal democratic values — while holding Mr. Najib accountable for his human rights violations, as well as any financial crimes he may have committed in the United States”.

If the White House received anything in exchange for that huge political favor, it’s not evident. That’s particularly unfortunate because Mr. Najib’s regime is not only a conspicuous violator of human rights but a relative friend to North Korea. The regime of Kim Jong Un has exported workers to Malaysia to earn hard currency. Kim Jong Un’s estranged half brother was murdered in Kuala Lumpur’s international airport — so far with no consequences for Pyongyang.

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Mr. Trump isn’t the only  U.S. President to pursue a policy of appeasement toward Mr. Najib. Barack Obama was the first appeaser who played golf with and visited the Malaysian Prime Minister in Malaysia.

Mr. Trump isn’t the first U.S. President to pursue a policy of appeasement toward Mr. Najib. President Barack Obama golfed with the Prime Minister and flattered him with the first visit by a U.S. President to Malaysia in nearly half a century. Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump may imagine that courting Mr. Najib is a necessary counter to China, which has hosted him twice in the past year and wooed him with promises of about $100 billion in investments. Yet Mr. Najib’s corruption and disregard for democratic norms mean he will inevitably prefer the values-free patronage of Beijing over alliance with Washington.

The best way for the United States to build a stronger alliance with Malaysia and bolster its independence from China is to encourage those in the country who support liberal democratic values — while holding Mr. Najib accountable for his human rights violations, as well as any financial crimes he may have committed in the United States. If Mr. Trump makes a start at that on Tuesday, he could begin to mitigate the error of inviting Mr. Najib to the White House.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trump-welcomes-an-authoritarian-to-the-white-house/2017/09/11/9d19f51c-9707-11e7-b569-3360011663b4_story.html?utm_term=.e59f606520a0

Rethinking Government–It ain’t bad after all, says Fareed


September 11, 2017

Rethinking Government–It ain’t bad after all, says Fareed

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

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We are living in an age of revolutions, natural and human, that are buffeting individuals and communities. We need government to be more than a passive observer of these trends and forces. It needs to actively shape and manage them. Otherwise, the ordinary individual will be powerless. I imagine that this week, most people in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico would be delighted to hear the words “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”–Fareed Zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com

Seeing the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and of wildfires out West, one cannot help but think about the crucial role that government plays in our lives. But while we accept, even celebrate, the role of government in the wake of such disasters, we are largely blind to the need for government to mitigate these kinds of crises in the first place.

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Ever since President Ronald Reagan, much of the United States has embraced an ideological framework claiming that government is the source of our problems. Reagan famously quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Reagan argued for a retreat from the vision of an activist state and advocated instead a strictly limited role for government, one dedicated to core functions such as national defense. Outside of these realms, he believed, government should simply encourage the private sector and market forces.

Reagan’s worldview grew out of the 1970s — a period marked by fiscal mismanagement, government overreach and slowing growth. It might have been the right attitude for its time. But it has stayed in place for decades as a rigid ideology, even though we have entered a new age in which America has faced a very different set of challenges, often desperately requiring an activist government. This has been a bipartisan abdication of responsibility.

For decades now, we have watched as stagnant wage growth for 90 percent of Americans has been coupled with supercharged growth for the richest few, leading to widening inequality on a scale not seen since the Gilded Age. It has been assumed that the federal government could do nothing about this expanding gap, despite much evidence to the contrary.

We have watched China enter the global trade system and take advantage of its access to Western markets and capital, while still maintaining a massively controlled internal economy and pursuing predatory trade practices. And we have assumed that the U.S. government can’t do anything about it, because any action would be protectionist.

We watched as financial institutions took on more and more risk, with other people’s money, effectively gambling in a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose system. Any talk of regulation was seen as socialist. Even after the system blew up, causing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the calls soon came to deregulate the financial sector once again because, after all, government regulation is obviously bad.

In this same period, technology companies have grown in size and scale, often using first-mover advantage to establish quasi-monopolies and quash competition. The digital economy was supposed to empower the individual entrepreneur, but it has instead become one in which four or five companies utterly dominate the global landscape. A new technology company today aspires simply to be bought by Google or Facebook. And we assume that the federal government should have had no role in shaping this vast new economy. That would be activist and bad. Better for government to simply observe the process, like a passive spectator watching a new Netflix drama.

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And then there is climate. These hurricanes have not been caused by global warming, but their frequency and intensity have likely been magnified by climate change. Particularly calamitous hurricanes have their names retired, and in the last 20 years there have been about as many names retired as in the preceding 40 years. California has had more than 6,400 wildfires this year. The 17 hottest years on record have all taken place in the past two decades.

And yet, we have been wary of too much government activism. This is true not just in tackling climate change but in other areas that have contributed to the storms’ destructive power. Houston chose not to have any kind of zoning that limited development, even in flood-prone areas, paving over thousands of acres of wetlands that used to absorb rainwater and curb flooding. The chemical industry has been able to persuade Washington to exercise a light regulatory touch, so there is limited protection against fires and contamination, something that was made abundantly clear in the past couple of weeks. And now, of course, low-tax and low-regulation Texas has come to the federal government, hat in hand, asking for more than $150 billion to rebuild its devastated state.

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We are living in an age of revolutions, natural and human, that are buffeting individuals and communities. We need government to be more than a passive observer of these trends and forces. It needs to actively shape and manage them. Otherwise, the ordinary individual will be powerless. I imagine that this week, most people in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico would be delighted to hear the words “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

 

1MDB Scandal–Tough Going for Washington-bound Malaysian Prime Minister


September 7, 2017

1MDB Scandal–Tough Going for  Washington- bound Malaysian Prime Minister

Sarawak Report

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The Indefatigable, Relentless  and Fearless Crusader–Sarawak Report Founder Clare Rewcastle Brown

Someone clearly thought it was a good idea to help out Malaysia’s unpopular and criminal Prime Minister, Najib Razak, with a high-profile visit to Donald Trump in advance of calling an awkward election.

That person must think that a broad coalition, led on a reform agenda by a previous highly sucessful Prime Minister of twenty years, would be a worse option for Malaysian or perhaps American interests than a notorious kleptocrat.

Image result for Najib to meet TrumpTrump to Najib: “Susah sekarang Jib, gua tak boleh tolong lu, tetapi kalau lu mahu tolong gua, boleh lah” (now it is difficult Jib, I can’t help you, but if you want to help, then fine).

They must also consider it would be better for Najib to remain as Prime Minister rather than his jailed opponent, a former successful Finance Minister, who won the popular vote in GE13 and has campaigned against the endemic corruption that wrecks the country.

However, it is a position that is getting harder by the day to argue, certainly in terms of public perception, because people are wondering why the Trump administration appears to be cynically ignoring its own legal action against theft and money-laundering that benefitted Najib and his own wife and family (the largest ever kleptocracy case)?

Also, why is it also contradicting its own policy on North Korea by welcoming Malaysia’s leader instead of blasting him for his various illegal dealings with the rogue nuclear state?

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Indeed, if Najib and Trump dare take questions during this White House visit they can be pretty sure these are the sort of things most journalists will want to ask about. Leo DiCaprio’s Piccaso gift; Miranda Ker’s diamonds, Rosie’s $27million dollar necklace and Jho Low’s yacht, all funded from stolen development money will make irresistible topics – and then there is also the tricky matter of Malaysia’s use of North Korean slave labour.

Why is Trump being advised to associate with such a tainted pair? One long-time Washington observer has suggested one frivolous reason to Sarawak Report, which would surely be inadequate:

Trump likes to meet with everyone. He likes to be distracted and entertained, by people coming to see him, in his space. He hates overseas trips. People have to come to the throne room to see him.

North Korea

It has been suggested things might in fact turn ugly in that Throne Room, given recent events, were Trump to receive a proper briefing on the nature of his husband and wife team guests.

North Korea is the foreign topic first and foremost on the President’s mind, followed by his steaming frustration over China over this and other matters, and Malaysia is negatively connected to these issues.

After North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb at the weekend Trump threatened to cut economic ties with all countries that trade with the pariah state and by now he ought to know that one of the worst offenders and violators of UN sanctions over North Korea in recent years has been Najib’s BN government.

In a recent article The Diplomat magazine succinctly summarised Malaysia’s wilful flouting of UN sanctions and its western allies in its dealings with North Korea. It makes highly disturbing reading:

Following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam (Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother, who was assassinated with nerve agent VX earlier this year at Kuala Lumpur airport), North Korea watchers and sanctions experts have turned their attention to North Korea’s relationship with Malaysia.
Two cases uncovered by investigators surrounding Malaysian-based companies Glocom and Kay Marine seemingly involve North Korea’s use of Malaysia to breach the UN arms embargo.

The article also highlights Malaysia’s “rare reciprocal visa-free travel arrangement” with North Korea, which undoubtedly assisted in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam. It goes on to point out that Malaysia’s lax import and export controls has made it a serious weak link over proliferation of arms and nuclear products.  This worried the Obama administration, says the Diplomat and it should worry Trump all the more so:

the Obama administration expressed concern – especially in relation to Iran – that “Malaysia was becoming the ‘new Dubai’ for illicit traders.”…Despite improvements, there are still limitations: the Financial Action Task Force noted in its 2015 review of Malaysian anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance controls that Malaysia still has significant technical gaps in the implementation of targeted financial sanctions, such as long delays in transposing new UN designations.

UN reports in 2013 and 2016 suggested that the country had been used as a meeting venue, and traveled through, by North Korean arms dealers….Glocom is said to be a “Malaysia-based company” advertising “radio communications equipment for military and paramilitary organizations.” While not officially registered in Malaysia, two Malaysian registered companies .. were said to be acting on its behalf. The UN report describes Glocom as a “front company of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea company Pan Systems Pyongyang Branch.

A second case involved Kay Marine, a boat builder sanctioned by the U.S. State Department in 2016….. Are there more Glocoms and Kay Marines in Malaysia or elsewhere? Likely so.

concludes The Diplomat.

There are other shocking human rights aspects to the Najib government’s self-interested exploitation of North Korea’s attempts at sanctions busting.  Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world that has permitted the provision of work visas for North Korean nationals and it was Sarawak Report which exposed how the families of BN government ministers have been exploiting the arrangement to import slave gangs of North Korean prisoners to do dirty jobs in mines and other work sites in Sarawak.

The shocking and disgraceful exploitation, a violation of basic human rights, came to light after two fatal explosions at the Lucky Hill coal mine of Sarawak. The victims turned out to be these unfortunate slaves, imported as one Sarawak Government spokesman explained, because local people were unwilling to do the unpleasant and dangerous work (especially not for free one assumes).

The owners of the Lucky Hill Mining company included a brother of the present Chief Minister of Sarawak and a sister of the former Chief Minister and present Governor of the state, Taib Mahmud.

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Trump’s Malaysian connection– Investor Joo Kim Tiah

No action was of course taken against these high-level folk either over human rights attrocities or plain safety failures. The surving workers have been dispersed from the mines, however activists have informed Sarawak Report that these free labourers have since been spotted on various construction sites around the state, meaning that the government of Najib Razak has done nothing to clean up its act on the use of slave labour from North Korea.

Sarawak Report suggests that Trump address these matters with Najib and that his administration should recognise that a regime that is corrupt and morally bankrupt is also a dangerous regime to his neighbours and supposed allies like the United States.

1MDB – Intimidation of Witnesses

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Malaysia’s Former Attorney-General replaced by someone who is close to Prime Minister Najib Razak

The other major concern over Najib and his wife is a domestic matter for the United States, since the FBI have been conducting a massive criminal investigation into the money launding of over $4.5 billion of stolen money through the purchase of assets in the United States.

Last month they confirmed that the asset seizures are part of a major criminal investigation, an announcement with Najib’s supporters attempted to spin into a claim that the entire case on 1MDB had been dropped. This could not be further from the case, although Trump’s invitation will of course enable the same spinners to further claim it represents ‘proof’ that the United States Department of Justice plans to let their leader off the hook over the largest global kleptocracy investigation ever undertaken.

Further developments over the last 24 hours have ratcheted up this matter further also with the FBI depicting Najib’s government in its latest court statements in the most sinister terms possible – willing to threaten, intimidate and even endanger witnesses to the case.

Sarawak Report has examined the court documents, placed before the Los Angeles Central Court at the start of the week, and they provide a damning assessment.  The string of filings make clear that the DOJ had applied to ‘stay’ (freeze) its civil action on 10th August for the simple reason that the legal teams representing Jho Low (and his family trust), Riza Aziz, Khadem al Qubaisi and their various companies under seizure had started to ask for disclosure of the FBI’s evidence on the case.

Since the latest FBI/DOJ court filing had consisted of 251 pages of closely detailed evidence the defence teams had come back demanding a list of no less than 358 items of disclosure representing thousands of documents, emails and witness statements from the parallel criminal investigation presently underway into the thefts from 1MDB.

It was in reponse to this that the DOJ applied to freeze the civil case until it has completed all its other criminal investigations. The defence lawyers opposed their motion and on Monday 5th September the DOJ lodged a rejection of that demand with a series of legal responses backed by statements from their investigators.  Their prime concern was that if the information being demanded by Jho Low’s lawyers were given out then witnesses would more than likely to be threatened an intimidated and indeed worse.  It paints an unflatering picture of the suspected criminals behind the 1MDB thefts and their position on the case looks sure to be upheld.

Testifying as to why such matters must not be disclosed FBI agent Robert Heuchling laid a declaration before the court including the following statement:

By obtaining discovery directly from the government or third parties about the government’s investigation, individuals and entities involved in the Criminal Phases could potentially conceal,alter, or destroy evidence, as well as intimidate and/or retaliate against potential witnesses.

The [complaints] allege that the individuals who were involved in the Criminal Phases include, but are not limited to, Low;Riza Aziz (“Aziz”), a Malaysian national and the step-son of the senior Malaysian official who oversaw 1MDB; and Khadem al-Qubaisi (“Qubaisi”).Moreover, the FACs allege that Low and several others, including Aziz and Qubaisi, were involved in or facilitated several multi-million dollar transfers that were made as part of the Criminal Phases. Many of these transfers and Low and others’ involvement in them are described in the FACs, underscoring the direct relationship between the 1MBD Actions and the ongoingcriminal investigation…..I believe that allowing discovery or other proceedings to occur in the 1MBD Actions will have an adverse impact on the United States’ ongoing criminal investigation.This concern is not hypothetical, but real, especially in light of some of the broad discovery requests that have already been served on the government….including the identity of witnesses who provided information to the United States, the sources of evidence from whom the United States obtained relevant information, as well as thousands of documents relating to the Criminal Phases….All or almost all of these documents are evidence of the conduct underlying the Criminal Phases of the 1MBD Actions. Providing these documents to any of the claimants in the 1MDB Actionscould result in their disclosure to other third parties. The disclosure of such information to subjects or targets of the criminal investigation could give these individuals and entities a preview of the United States’ criminal investigation as well as the opportunity to track the status of the criminal investigation.Disclosure of such materials also will potentially identify witnesses who have provided information to the government, including their identity and location; the sources of the government’s information; the…..By obtaining discovery directly from the government or third parties about the government’s investigation, individuals and entities involved in the Criminal Phases could potentially conceal,alter, or destroy evidence, as well as intimidate and/or retaliate against potential witnesses. Producing any identifying witness information could result in witness intimidation or jeopardize the safety and security of witnesses – a legitimate concern in this case, given that press reports have publicized potentially retaliatory or threatening acts linked possibly to the 1MDB investigation.

The FBI agent then provides the court with some examples of the threatening and extra-judicial tactics taken by the Najib Government against 1MDB critics and other forms of intimidation that have been carried out in KL. It makes for shameful reading:

  • On or about September 1, 2015, the media reported that Khairuddin Abu Hassan, an official in the United Malays National Organization, was arrested by Malaysian authorities after he announced that he intended to travel to New York to provide information about 1MDB to the FBI. (See “Arrested Najib Critic Was Scheduled to Meet FBI Agents to Lodge 1MDB Complaint,” (September 19, 2015)
  • Similarly, on or about August 1, 2015, the media reported that three Malaysian law enforcement officials, including a deputy public prosecutor, an official of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and an official from the Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia, all of whom were working on a special task force in Malaysia investigating 1MDB, were arrested by Malaysia’s Special Branch, Malaysia’s intelligence service, because of news reports relating to 1MDB published in the United Kingdom. (See “Special Branch Raids Deputy Public Prosecutor’s Office at MACC for 1MDB Documents,” (August 2, 2015)
  • On or about April 8, 2016, Malaysian media reported that Rafizi Ramli, a member of Malaysia’s Parliament, was arrested because he was suspected of disclosing information relating to 1MDB. (See “Malaysian Opposition MP Charged Over 1MDB Leak,” (April 8, 2016),
  • Just a few days ago, Malaysian local media reported that the driver of former Malaysian Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail, who opened the initial investigation into 1MDB in that country, was shot in public by two unidentified men. (See “Driver’s Shooting a Warning to Gani Patail from ‘MO1’ Not to Assist in DOJ’s 1MDB Criminal Probe? Bombshell – FBI Hit Bullseyes with Caution ‘The Safety of Certain Law Enforcement Personnel & Their Willingness to Co-operate will be Threatened,” Malaysia Chronicle (August 30, 2017),
  • A number of individuals, who have provided information to the government have expressed significant concerns relating to safety or retaliation if the identities of certain witnesses, especially those located in certain foreign countries, were disclosed publicly. These individuals have also expressed concern for their own safety

This is a shameful reminder of what has been going on in Malaysia now put before a US court.  A former US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott has also been writing about the situation in an article that like many others ought to be taken up and read by Trump’s advisors.  Malott also posted this succinct summary on his Facebook:

“Basic facts: Najib and his family and cronies have stolen somewhere between 4 and 8 Billion dollars from the country. The US Department of Justice has moved to seize the assets they bought with that money in the US. Malaysia consistently breaks UN and international sanctions on North Korea. Najib has imprisoned his political foes, charged them with sedition, and taken away their passports. He controls the newspapers, television, and radio. The police and judiciary are totally under his thumb. He and his corrupt wife run the government like a family business. Businesses tremble before him. Plus he likes to play golf. He’s really Trump’s kind of guy.”

As John Malott said in his article – “Welcome to Washington Mr Prime Minister”!

SARAWAK REPORT

1MDB Scandal –Potential Witnesses for DOJ fear retaliation if they talk to US Investigators


September 7, 2017

1MDB Scandal –Potential Witnesses for DOJ fear retaliation if they talk to US Investigators

by Bloomberg

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Possible witnesses to the alleged looting of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Bhd are too scared to talk to U.S. investigators because they fear retaliation, according the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Some people in “certain foreign countries” already assisting the criminal probe are concerned for their safety, while others say it’s too dangerous to cooperate, according to an FBI request to keep the names of its informants secret from the alleged masterminds of the 1MDB conspiracy.

Individuals who would otherwise be willing to provide information have told the government they’re worried about putting “the safety and security of both themselves and their families at serious risk,” the FBI said Tuesday in a federal court filing in Los Angeles.

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Will he squeal to save his family fortune in exchange for immunity from prosecution?

The trusts holding the assets on behalf of Low, Aziz, al Qubaisi and their families are contesting the forfeiture actions and oppose the request to put the civil cases on hold. The Low trusts have asked the U.S. to supply it with the identities of witnesses, sources of evidence, and thousands of documents that are relevant to the criminal investigation, according to the FBI.

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Kevin Morais was threatened when he did not want to accept the bribes”

The FBI cited Malaysian news reports of local officials who have been arrested because of their purported role in investigating the 1MDB embezzlement. As recently as August 30, Malaysian media reported that the driver of former Malaysian Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail was shot and wounded as a possible warning to the former prosecutor not to cooperate with the U.S., the FBI said.

Abdul Gani opened the initial 1MDB investigation, according to the FBI’s filing. He was replaced as attorney general in 2015.

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Najib Razak and Donald Trump–The Art of the Deal–Lu Tolong Gua, Gua Tolong Gua, senang saja ma

The U.S. investigation is part of a global effort to track how much of the $6 billion that 1MDB raised for development projects was embezzled or involved in money laundering. Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg are among the countries also investigating the roles played by banks and individuals.

Najib, who until last year was the chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia’s attorney general. Low issued a statement in June, in response to a second round of forfeiture lawsuits, saying the U.S. government was continuing “inappropriate efforts to seize assets despite not having proven that any improprieties have occurred.”

In those cases, the Justice Department alleged that a $1.29 million heart-shaped diamond and a $3.8 million diamond pendant Low gave in 2014 to his then-girlfriend, actress Miranda Kerr, were bought with stolen money.

Image result for Riza Aziz and Rakan, ma

Low allegedly also gave a $3.2 million Picasso painting to actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who played the lead in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a movie the U.S. says was financed Aziz using misappropriated 1MDB funds.

The case is U.S. v. “The Wolf of Wall Street,” 16-cv-05362, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

by BLOOMBERG