Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s twin mega scandals – the RM2.6 billion “donation” and RM55 billion 1MDB – have performed a virtually impossible feat, entering the new year in some 36 hours with even more questions than answers.
This, despite being the subject of multiple investigations inside the country – at one time, even by the highest-powered multi-agency Special Task Force under four “Tan Sris” led by the then Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail himself until Gani was summarily sacked in a government purge on July 28 whose victims included the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the Special Task Force dissolved – and the target of separate investigations by at least seven foreign countries, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and United States.
How could this happen?
On Monday (Dec. 28), Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi urged the people not to fall for the latest report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) which cited an unknown source in explaining how US$850 million was transferred from 1MDB to a phantom offshore entity.
In its Dec 17 report, the US-based daily said 1MDB fund was sent to “Aabar Investments PJS Ltd”, which closely resembles the name of Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Investment Co’s (IPIC) subsidiary – Aabar Investment PJS.
WSJ reported the news based on documents reviewed by the publication and those familiar with the matter.
However, on Monday, Zahid made no effort to deny or admit the authenticity of the news.
If Zahid is in the know about the matter of the US$850 million 1MDB transfer, he should either deny or admit the authenticity of the WSJ Report.
If Zahid had no idea whatsoever about the transfer of US$850 million to phantom offshore entity, he should stay completely out of the 1MDB ring, instead of trying to be a smart aleck to make comments on things he knows nothing about.
Less than 24 hours after Zahid’s advice to Malaysians to suspend judgment and belief in mass media reports about Najib’s twin mega scandals until the outcome of the various Malaysian investigations, WSJ dropped what has been described as “WSJ’s Last Bombshell For The Year” (finance twitter) – that Najib’s US$700 million (then RM2.6 billion but now RM3 billion due to ringgit depreciation) sudden swelling in his private banking accounts in March 2013 came from 1MDB.
The WSJ report “1MDB and the Money Network of Malaysian Politics” carried a number of allegations, including the following Malaysiakini write-ups:
*“Najib sacked former 1MDB auditors, says WSJ editor”.
*“WSJ claims 1MDB board jittery over probe, feared CBT charge”.
*“Jho Low helped disburse BN election spending”.
*“WSJ: 1MDB prioritised political spending despite insufficient funds”.
Instead of a point-by-point rebuttal, whether outright denial, clarification or justification, to the various allegations in the WSJ report, 1MDB under its CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy hewed to the guideline enunciated by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi to generally dismiss all the allegations on grounds that they are “unproven allegations” and/or from unverified sources.
Wouldn’t 1MDB, and by implication the Prime Minister, have gained in greater credibility if in the past six months they had diligently responded to all the allegations, whether by denying or explaining its actual circumstances if taken out of context, leaving the various pending investigations to confirm whether the 1MDB responses are true, instead of taking the high but shaky ground of dismissing all the allegations as unproven and/or unreliable as coming from unverified sources?
For instance, in the allegations in the WSJ Report yesterday, couldn’t 1MDB respond specifically whether the following events had taken place:
1. 1MDB’s former auditors Ernsts & Young and KPMG were fired by Najib after both of them had questions about accounting relating to the treatment of investments relating to the 2009 PetroSaudi joint venture.
2. Board members of 1MDB had been jittery over police investigations in December last year after an unnamed Umno politician lodged a police report claiming financial mismanagement in the company, with one board member worried whether they could be charged with ‘criminal breach of trust’.
3. 1MDB Board Chairman had suggested at the Board meeting in December last year convening in the future outside of 1MDB’s offices to ‘reduce the risk of bugged meeting rooms’.
4. Business tycoon Jho Low brought into 1MDB to help handle election-related spending although Low did not hold any formal title within Umno or Barisan Nasional. Low acted as a senior BN strategist for Penang in the 2013 GE, where he told BN candidates that if they needed money for their campaigns, they could request from him and he would deliver the funds , and money were spent to paint voters’ houses, give out free food and other favours – when “money was flowing like hell”.
5. 1MDB continued prioritising political spending despite its insufficient cash flow to repay its heavy debt, alarming directors by the poor financial state that they expressed their fears at a board meeting on Dec. 20 last year whether they had landed in hot water and whether the police would launch a probe on the firm.
6. Najib had gathered a group of Umno leaders in July when he was under pressure to resign, with him reminding the Umno leaders that they had benefited from the RM2.6 billion political donation, where Najib was quoted as saying: “I took the money to spend for us.”
Or is 1MDB wary of any point-by-point rebuttal, whether denial or explanation of the actual circumstances, because there is considerable truth in the allegations and for fear of being tripped up by more expose of facts and truths from a controversy over these allegations?
Najib’s twin mega scandals are not going to fade and vanish, but will grow and multiply both in scale and intensity and the list of questions are going to lenghthen relentlessly and completely overwhelm the few unsatisfactory answers that are forthcoming from the Prime Minister and 1MDB – like the questions in the eight-part series on the 1MDB scandal by Malaysiakini and Kinibiz for their end-of-the-year coverage.
Najib may survive the immediate adverse consequences of the twin mega scandals, but the nation and the 30 million Malaysians will be the casualties, in terms of economic growth and the national trajectory towards a united, competitive, progressive and prosperous Malaysia that will be blighted by the open and festering national wounds represented by the RM2.6 billion donation and RM55 billion 1MDB twin mega scandals.
The greatest national service Najib can do to the country is to lay both these twin mega scandals to rest by giving a full and satisfactory accounting of his role in the RM2.6 billion donation and RM55 billion 1MDB scandals.
Can Najib perform such a national service in the Special Parliament he will convene on Jan 26 and 27 to approve the TPPA?