Kuala Terengganu is the 126th parliamentary constituency that I am visiting in my “Pantang Undur – Berani Kerana Benar” nation-wide tour since my six-month suspension from Parliament in October last year for demanding two simple answers from the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak with regard to this twin mega scandals which have put Malaysia among the top 10 countries infamous for global corruption – where the monies for the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM4.2 billion “donation” scandals came from and where the monies have gone to.
I will return to Parliament when it reconvenes on Monday 16th May, but six months after my suspension from Parliament, the two questions of “Where the monies came from and where the monies have gone to” have still to be answered, and have writ even larger, with major developments in Najib’s twin mega financial scandals confirming Malaysia as home to one of the great global corruptions of the time.
In fact, never before had Malaysia seen a local scandal taken such global dimension as to be almost in frequent international limelight, sometimes for days at a stretch, in the past year or more, and if anyone googles “1MDB scandal”, there would be more than half a million returns!
This is not to the credit or honour of Malaysia – but to our great national shame and humiliation.
Yesterday, I had lamented that Malaysia and the Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had not played a leading role in the historic Global Anti-Corruption Summit in London hosted by the United Kingdom Government, as it was the second important global anti-corruption conference held after the16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya last September with the theme of “Ending Impunity: People, Integrity and Action”.
The 16th IACC was supposed to be the high-water mark of Najib’s six-year anti-corruption campaign and show-case him as one of the exemplary global leaders spearheading a transformation programme with anti-corruption as one of its core objectives, but it became a major flop and sham for Maalaysia with Najib mired in his twin mega scandals to the extent that Najib had to cancel the keynote address he was scheduled to deliver.
But Najib absence from the Global Anti-Corruption Summit in London yesterday was probably a blessing in disguise for Malaysia, for it would otherwise have been an even more humiliating experience for Najib and Malaysia.
On the same day that the Global Anti-Corruption Summit was held in London, there were three exposes in the international media about the 1MDB scandal which probably constitute a “game changer” in the drips and drops of revelations over the past year, bearing directly on the relevance and importance of the agenda of the London Global Anti-Corruption Summit to demand transparency of the shell companies in offshore financial centres or tax havens like the British Virgin Islands which played such a critical role in global corruption and global efforts for the recovery of stolen money from corruption.
The three international media exposes on the 1MDB scandal yesterday were:
Firstly: Singapore’s Today Online which reported that a new charge, his seventh, levelled by Singapore authorities against former private banker Yeo Jiawei revealed SRC International’s link to the 1MDB scandal.
Yeo was charged with facilitating the transfer of US$11.95 million (RM48 million) from SRC International to Affinity Equity International Partners, a company owned by Tan Kim Loong.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Tan was the beneficiary owner of Tanore Finance when it was first set up, the same British Virgin Islands entity that sent US$681 million to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal bank accounts.
The US-based publication had also reported that Tanore Finance was the partial beneficiary of the US$3.5 billion that 1MDB was supposed to pay Aabar Investments PJS but was diverted to a British Virgin Islands company bearing a similar name – Aabar Investments PJS Limited.
The money from the wrong Aabar Investments PJS Limited passed through intermediaries before ending up in Tanore Finance.
The Singapore investigation is significant as it reveals the first link between SRC International and individuals connected to the 1MDB issue.
Previously, apart from SRC being a former subsidiary of 1MDB, it was never directly linked to the web of multi-million ringgit transactions by the Malaysian fund that is now the subject of international investigations.
The controversial transactions by SRC International, now under the Finance Ministry, was previously viewed as independent of 1MDB, among them were the transfers of RM42 million and RM27 million, through intermediaries, into Najib’s personal bank accounts.
Secondly, the UK Financial Times reported that leaks and settlement documents involving Banca della Svizzera Italiana (BSI) revealed how the bank assisted in helping cash-flushed but suspect individuals to evade tax authorities.
BSI’s Singapore branch was used by state investment firm 1MDB and controversial businessman Jho Low, and is now part of the investigation into 1MDB.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Low, 1MDB and British Virgin Island-registered firm Aabar PJS Limited (Aabar BVI) used the same relationship manager at BSI Singapore.
The same person was listed for loan documents between Aabar BVI and Red Granite Pictures, a Hollywood film production company owned by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz.
BSI agreed to pay a fine of US$211 million to the US and hand over details of clients evading taxes in the US, following the closure of Switzerland’s oldest bank Wagellin over tax fraud charges.
Thirdly, the Wall Street Journal report that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz’s purchase of two luxury properties in its investigation into 1MDB.
Investigators believe at least US$50 million originating from 1MDB were spent on the properties in New York and Los Angeles.
The US daily earlier reported that Riza’s Red Granite Pictures produced the blockbuster ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ using US$155 million diverted from 1MDB.
WSJ reported for the first time that investigation papers it sighted showed the funds came through British Virgin Island-registered firm Aabar Investments PJS.
These three international media exposes yesterday constitute a triple shame for Malaysia:
firstly, a shame that the Malaysian Parliament continues to put up a pretence that the Najib’s twin mega scandals are a figment of imagination of Najib’s enemies, and all sorts of reasons are given to disallow MPs from demanding full responsibility and accountability for Malaysia’s first global financial scandal;
secondly, a shame that the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) failed to uncover financial frauds, money-laundering and corrupt practices which are now staple of international media reporting on 1MDB scandal;
thirdly, a shame that Malaysia’s investigative and enforcement agencies, in particular the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC), Bank Negara and the Police, have proven to be such ineffective and inefficient bodies as compared to their counterparts in other countries, with the 1MDB scandal the subject of investigations by some eight other countries.
Najib and Parliament must redeem national honour and reputation, and at least four things must be done when Parliament reconvenes on Monday:
1. Tabling of the Auditor-General’s Report on 1MDB (both interim and final) to Parliament on first day of Parliament on 16th May.
2. A White Paper by Najib to give a comprehensive account on the latest on the 1MDB scandal;
3. Three days set aside for a wide-ranging debate in Parliament on 1MDB; and
4. Directive to the PAC to re-open investigation into the 1MDB scandal.
(Speech at the “Pantang Undur – Berani Kerana Benar” ceramah at Kuala Terengganu on Friday, 13th May 2016 at 8 am)