by A Kadir Jasin
The news that Malaysian authorities investigating the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal are considering charging former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Abdul Razak with money laundering and misappropriation of property is unsurprising.
The Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quoted as saying that Najib may face multiple charges and that the case against him is watertight.
Whatever criminal charge or charges the prosecutor may bring against him is immaterial. What the people want is justice. They want him and his co-conspirators punish and the stolen assets recovered.
And if they can, they want these done quickly. I won’t blame them. It has been at least five years that the 1MDB and, to a lesser degree, the SRC International Sdn Bhd, scandals had been made known to them.
It started quite harmlessly with the lavish spending, including the staging of a mammoth “Gangnam Style” concert and “makan besar” in Penang during the 2013 general election campaign.
Words spread that these events were bankrolled by a certain Penang born businessman by the name of Low Taek Jho or better known as Jho Low. It later turned out that Jho Low is Najib’s partner in crime.
Their crimes had been proven in trials in Singapore and the legal actions in the United States of America and Switzerland.
Only here in Malaysia that it’s business as usual until Najib’s Barisan Nasional was ousted in the May 9 polls.
Since then Najib’s Attorney-General and protector, (Tan Sri) Mohamed Apandi Ali, had been shown the door and the new AG, Tommy Thomas has made the 1MDB/SRC investigation his priority.
A Reuter report from Kuala Lumpur had quoted Thomas as saying that his office was studying possible criminal and civil action.
The international news agency quoted a source close to the investigations as telling it that Najib may be charged with dishonest misappropriation of property under the Malaysian Penal Code.
The offense, Reuter says, carries a maximum jail sentence of five years, a fine and whipping. The law, however, forbids men over the age of 50 years from being whipped. Najib is 64.
Maybe misappropriation of property and money laundering are easier to prove. Several people and banks involved in laundering stolen 1MDB money had been tried and found guilty in Singapore.
These were people used by Jho Low to launder the stolen 1MDB money though the Singapore banking system. Two foreign banks had also been shut down.
In the US, for instance, money laundering charges had been used to dismantle the Mafia empires and sent their godfathers to jail. Once the Mafia chiefs were imprisoned, their other criminal activities like murders, kidnappings and extortion could be more easily investigated and prosecuted.
The same could be done with Najib and his associates – lock them away and proceed with the investigations into all the cases relating to them – anything from the purchase of the French submarines Scorpene to the murders of the Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and the founder of the Arab-Malaysian Bank, Hussein Najadi, the suspicious death of private investigator P. Balasubramaniam and other unsolved mysteries.
Even Jho Low could be made to sing with the promise of a lighter punishment. But he must still be made to suffer the consequences of his criminal activities.
Jho Low knew his days as the international playboy and big spender were over the moment the BN lost on May 9. Almost immediately he sent feelers to offer the olive branch to the Pakatan Harapan government.
He is said to have tried to contact the Prime Minister Tun Mahathir personally but was spurned. He then contacted an intermediary who demanded that he put his “offers” in writing.
It seemed that he had wanted to cut a deal whereby he would slaughter his former boss and his other associates in return for immunity.
But this time his audacity did not pay off. A warrant of arrest had been issued against him. He either surrenders or becomes an international fugitive.
Even his family may suffer the consequences of his action. His father is Penang businessman Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng.
Singapore China Spectre
Incidentally, the BN’s defeat could have also exposed the cat-and-mouse game Singapore and China played with the corrupt Najib administration with predatory intentions.
As much as we treasure the relationship with the two countries, we cannot ignore the fact that billions of ringgit of the stolen 1MDB money flowed into Singapore and, for a while, inflated the republic’s banking system while China appeared to have capitalised on Najib’s greed and penchant for railroading government decisions to its advantage.
It wasn’t until the 1MDB theft became a global scandal that the Singapore authorities started to act to protect the republic’s image as an international financial centre.
We appreciate Singapore’s cooperation but we must also investigate and understand the psychology and strategy it employed in its dealing with Najib.
These include such matters as the surrender of the Malayan Railway land in the republic, the joint development of the replacement lands by Khazanah and Temasek, and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR).
As for the US, we must make the distinction between our reservation about Trump’s White House, if any, and the hugely helpful action of the Department of Justice (DoJ) in relations to the stolen 1MDB assets.
Reuter had reported on June 12 that the US Ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, told Finance Minister, Lim Guan Eng, that assets seized by the US would be monetised and returned to Malaysia.
In Twitter message, Lim said: “She reassured me that assets seized from 1MDB will be monetised and returned to Malaysia as early as possible.”
The DoJ had filed both criminal and civil lawsuits to seize assets it says were bought with funds misappropriated from 1MDB. It named Jho Low and Najib’s stepson, Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz as the defendants in the suits.
*Disclaimers: Datuk A Kadir Jasin – views expressed in my blog The Scribe – are entirely mine. I am writing in my personal capacity as a blogger. It has nothing to do with whatever position I may hold.