In the first time in 61 years of the nation’s history, the Prime Minister of the country has been publicly been called a “thief”, not once, but twice within two days, by two international media organisations on completely different issues.
One was the international weekly magazine, the Economist which on 8th March, 2018, carried an article titled “Stop, thief! Malaysia’s PM is about to steal an election”.
The report alleged that Datuk Seri Najib Razak feared that most voters would not vote BN to power again if given a choice, and is “taking their choice away” by means of gerrymandering and malapportionment, among other tactics.
It cited the 1MDB scandal, in which US authorities say billions of ringgit have been misused, as the main point of argument.
The article said: “In most countries, a government that allowed US$4.5 billion to go missing from a state development agency would struggle to win re-election.
“If some US$681 million had appeared in the prime minister’s personal account around the same time, which he breezily explained away as a gift from an unnamed admirer, the task would be all the harder.
“An apparent cover-up, involving the dismissal of officials investigating, or merely complaining about the scandal, might be the last straw for voters. But in Malaysian elections, alas, voters do not count for much.”
The article continued: “Faced with the risk of losing power, the government is rigging the system even more brazenly. Parliament will soon vote on new constituency boundaries. The proposed map almost guarantees Najib another term, despite his appalling record.”
It noted that “the practice (malapportionment) is so unfair that it is illegal in most countries, including Malaysia, where the constitution says that electoral districts must be ‘approximately equal’ in size”.
The next day, on March 9, the American television host Rachel Maddow of MSNBC news programme also called Najib a thief in her “The Rachel Maddow Show”.
Maddow made detailed mention of the 1MDB scandal from the time of the “Arab donation” matter to the latest developments including Indonesian/FBI seizure of Jho Low’s billion ringgit luxury superyacht Equanimity in Bali last week and the Wall Street Journal report on its review of a cache of emails which revealed that an aide and donor of US President Donald Trump had asked for US$75 million from 1MDB mastermind Jho Low to get the US DoJ to drop its 1MDB investigations.
The following is a transcript from the Rachel Maddow Show last Friday:
This new yacht that you own is a $250 million yacht. It`s called “The Equanimity.” It has now been seized by the FBI, by U.S. federal agents, and is being handed over to the U.S. government.
So congratulations, U.S. taxpayer! Hope you like your new boat.
I should also tell you that this week, you also just became the proud owner of $60 million worth of proceeds that were earned by the film “Wolf of Wall Street.” The producers of the movie have now surrendered $60 million of what that film made to the U.S. government. So you own those proceeds now too.
You apparently are also about to become the owner of some of the proceeds of the movie “Daddy`s Home” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and you are also about to become the owner of some of the proceeds from the movie “Dumb and Dumber 2” which stars a car that looks like a dog.
In the case of those two movies, though, unlike “Wolf of Wall Street,” where we know it`s $60 million that you`re getting, I don`t know exactly how much of the proceeds you are about to get from “Dumb and Dumber 2”, and the dad one, but you`re about to get some of it as a U.S. taxpayer.
And the reason you are now the owner of all of this new stuff you didn`t own before is because of this guy. Not the one on the left, the other guy, who is the prime minister of Malaysia.
If you are the prime minister of a country and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars suddenly show up in your personal bank account, you better have a really good explanation for that, right? I mean, prime minister jobs do tend to come with a nice salary, but not hundreds of millions of dollars overnight kind of salary.
A couple of years ago, though, somebody put almost $700 million into the bank account of the prime minister of Malaysia. And he really had no good explanation for it. For months, he just said it was nobody`s business. It was his money.
He said these allegations, these insinuations that there was anything inappropriate about the sudden infusion of $700 million into his private bank account, he said this was just his political opponents trying to undermine him, there was nothing to see here. Then his own attorney general and his deputy prime minister started saying, actually, you know, maybe the prime minister should answer questions about this mysterious $700 million. The prime minister reacted to that by firing both of them. He fired his deputy prime minister and he fired his attorney general.
The prime minister then appointed a new attorney general to look at the circumstances of that money turning up in his bank account, and that new hand-picked attorney general looked into it and declared that really it was all fine. Nobody had done anything wrong.
And that`s when they decided what their public explanation would be for where the money came from. The explanation was that that money, that $700 million, it was a present. It was a no-strings-attached gift for the prime minister from the Saudi royal family. Their line was that there was a Saudi prince who decided that he liked the prime minister of Malaysia, and no occasion really, he just decided that the prime minister could probably do with $700 million, so he gave it to him. Free for nothing.
When that`s your good-sounding explanation, when that`s your “everything is fine, nothing to see here” excuse that a Saudi prince dropped it off and we don`t know why, if that`s the good sounding explanation, you know the bad-sounding explanation must be really, really, really bad.
Well, sure enough, a few months later the United States Department of Justice filed a 250-page complaint alleging that that $700 million cash that turned up mysteriously in the personal bank account of the Malaysian prime minister, that was just a fraction of the proceeds of a gigantic heist A giant act of thievery, a corruption scheme, in which the prime minister and his family and his associates stole billions of dollars from the Malaysian government, $4.5 billion they stole in cash from the Malaysian government. And some of it they just stacked up in bank accounts, but mostly they laundered it all over the world, including in the United States, which is why the U.S. Justice Department brought the case even though the money was stolen from the people of Malaysia.
And the list of stuff that they spent the stolen money on is a ridiculous list of stuff. The prime minister`s family and friends – they bought penthouses in New York City. They bought mansions in Beverly Hills. They bought yachts, yes, yachts, Barry White style and otherwise. They bought Picasso paintings. They did a lot of gambling.
The prime minister`s wife mysteriously ended up with a lot of ridiculous Jewelry. The prime minister`s step-son used a bunch of the money to finance some Hollywood movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Daddy`s Home” and “Dumb and Dumber 2” all through a company called Red Granite Pictures. If you actually watch the trailers for any of those Hollywood movies, you`ll see a splash page at the beginning of all those trailers for Red Granite Pictures.
U.S. Justice Department says that was the money laundering vehicle for some of these gazillions of dollars that were stolen from the Malaysian government by the prime minister, his family and their associates.
And yes, that`s sort of a bonkers list of things to spend money on, particularly if you are trying to stay low-key and get away with this kind of theft, right? Ostentatious much? But in a way, if you think about it, you sort of have to spend the money on something. It is hard to explain hundreds of billions of dollars, let alone billions of dollars just sitting in bank accounts. Maybe it`s better to convert it into real-world salable assets, converted even into assets that might make a profit. If “Dumb and Dumber 2” is anywhere near as good as the original, it might be a great investment.
Well, now, the United States has started the process of seizing the assets that are believed to have been bought by the criminals who carried off the scheme. The stuff that was stolen with Malaysian government money, U.S. federal official, the FBI, started last summer going after the real estate. They made Leonardo DiCaprio hand over the Picasso that he was given as a gift by the good people who turned up with barrels full of cash to finance “The Wolf of Wall Street.” And the Justice Department has continued to pursue its investigation into this huge heist, this massive theft of billions of dollars in government funds, which ended up resulting in the purchase of all of these things.
So, a few things here. Number one, congratulations on your new yacht. It is lovely! Even to the point where it`s attractive. Two, yes, it was strange when President Trump hosted the Malaysian prime minister at the White House just a few months ago, in September, in the middle of this big investigation. White House never mentioned the federal agents who were pursuing the Malaysian prime minister as a multi-billion dollar thief in this gigantic scheme.
There was actually worry in advance of the Malaysian prime minister visiting Trump that, if on this trip to the White House, the prime minister`s wife wore some specific jewelry she is known to possess, federal agents might be put in the awkward position of having to take that jewelry off her, like maybe when she was leaving the White House grounds, or maybe at their hotel. Naturally, the Malaysian prime minister and his entourage, including his wife, all stayed at our president`s hotel in Washington while they were for that visit, which means that government funds that rightfully belong to the people of Malaysian have now gone into the pocket of the Malaysian prime minister himself but also into the pocket of our president. Nice. No wonder they get along so well.
So, the ongoing Justice Department investigation and the seizure of all these luxury items bought with the stolen funds, that makes that White House visit a little weird. Now, it`s getting weirder because the “Wall Street Journal” has obtained documents, e-mails, that appear to show that a top Republican fundraiser close to President Donald Trump was in negotiations to earn tens of millions of dollars if the Justice Department dropped the investigation into the graft scandal involving a Malaysian state investment fund.
I should tell you, the specific businessman we`re talking about here who they were trying to set up some sort of contract with, he is the guy who is technically the owner of your new yacht, “The Equanimity,” this yacht that FBI agents just seized in this case. FBI agents have found the yacht, but the guy himself who is technically the owner, who is allegedly part of this big theft scheme with the prime minister, that guy has gone missing.
And they are now looking for him right now. But according to the “Wall Street Journal,” within the last year, these e-mails that “The Journal” obtained show that a Trump fundraiser was pursuing a draft business agreement with that guy, the guy who is now a fugitive, right, the guy who owns the yacht and cannot be found. Elliott Broidy and his wife were pursuing a deal in which he and his wife would get paid a cool $75 million if they were able to succeed in getting the Justice Department to drop this Malaysian case.
This is weird, right? This massive corruption case, massive heist, multi billion-bar scheme and Trump is hosting the prime minister at the center of it, in the middle of this big case by the Justice Department?
And the main business guy who also seems to have benefited from it, at least it got him a $250 million yacht, he is involved with one of Trump`s fundraisers who are asking for a $75 million payment to get the U.S. Justice Department to drop this case against him. It`s a strange story, right? Who knows where this one ends?
Will Najib sue? Will the Malaysian Prime Minister clear his own name and reputation, if not for his own sake, at least for the sake of the Malaysian nation and 30 million Malaysians?
It is not only the US, Australian, British, European and other international media which have been reporting about the 1MDB scandal, even Asean media, with Indonesia’s leading current affairs magazine Tempo highlighting the 1MDB scandal and the cover-up by the Malaysian government, despite ongoing investigations by various foreign authorities.
In its latest edition, the weekly publication featured the 1MDB scandal on its front page – with a caricature of businessperson Jho Low on board the Equanimity – and in several articles within, including one headlined “Smooth outside, stalled inside.”
It noted that investigations by Malaysian authorities conducted over the past three years have not resulted in any charges brought against individuals linked to the state investment fund.
“Nine other countries investigating this corruption case have found facts that contradicted the Malaysian government’s claims.
“The FBI has established links between businessperson Jho Low and 1MDB, and even concluded that the Equanimity was bought using money raised from 1MDB bonds,” Tempo said in its report.
The question Malaysians must ask is whether Malaysia has become a double global kleptocracy, firstly because of the 1MDB scandal and secondly, as charged by The Economist, because of the theft of the impending 14th General Election.
Najib cannot continue to behave as if he has eyes that see not, ears that hear not and mouth that speaks not! He has no option but to clear his own name and that of the nation.