Malaysia and the Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should be playing a leading role in the historic Anti-Corruption Summit in London today hosted by the United Kingdom Government, as this is the second important global anti-corruption conference held after the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya last September with the theme of “Ending Impunity: People, Integrity and Action”.
Unfortunately Najib dodged and ducked the 16th IACC which was supposed to be the high-water mark of his 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.
When Najib’s keynote address for the conference hosted by the Malaysian government was cancelled at the last-minute, and Najib’s photograph and biography quietly and ignominiously removed from the conference website, the 30 million Malaysians had to endure a humiliating opening speech delivered by Transparency International Chair José Ugaz who told about 1,000 delegates from all over the world that the measures taken by the Najib government in connection with the 1MDB financial scandal “are not the actions of a government that is fighting corruption.”
Jose Ugaz said: “No one can be in Malaysia and not be aware of the corruption allegations of recent months and how damaging they are to the country. There is a corruption crisis here.
“We want to see more progress but that cannot happen while there are unanswered questions about the $700m that made its way into the prime minister’s personal bank account.
“There are two questions that need to be answered: Who paid the money and why? Where did it go?
“One man could answer those questions.”
Eight month forward, these two simple questions about Najib’s RM50 billion 1MDB and RM4.2 billion “donation” twin mega scandals (only cited as RM42 billion and RM2.6 billion respectively during the 16th ICAC) are not only no nearer to answer, but have been swarmed by more serious issues about integrity, accountability and good governance.
This is why Malaysia and the Malaysian Prime Minister have to continue to dodge and duck the historic Anti-Corruption Summit in London or to appear in the global dock of the accused.
The Anti-Corruption Summit in London today is historic, taking place just weeks after the Panama Papers thrust offshore secrecy and corruption into the international spotlight.
Corruption is not a victimless crime as it is “one of the greatest enemies of progress in our time” – as the source of crime, poverty and instability which props up abusive regimes, keeps fledging economies dependent on foreign aid and deprives populations of basic services.
The sick are left without healthcare. Thousands of children are forced out of school. Others are forced to flee their countries or are driven to extremism. And it is as bad for global economic and political security as it is for development.
The problem must be tackeld at its roots: by ending the ability to hide and move dirty money through the financial system without detection. There are territories like British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands which have built entire economies around selling secrecy, and the Panama Papers have shown the damage this does.
One measure the international community must take as a global anti-corruption measure is to open up the Tax Havens to require them to adopt transparency measures to make information on who owns and controls companies (their ‘beneficial owners’) available to the public.
Will the Najib government support such an anti-global corruption measure, especially as one of the mysteries of the RM50 billion 1MDB scandal is the alleged payment of US$2.4 billion by 1MDB to be a shell company, British Virgin-Island incorporated Aabar Investments PJS Limited (Aabar BVI) which does not belong to Abu Dhabi-state owned International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) or its unit Aabar Investment PJS.
IPIC had said: “Both IPIC and Aabar confirm that Aabar BVI was not an entity within either corporate group. Further, both IPIC and Aabar confirm that neither has received any payments from Aabar BVI nor has IPIC or Aabar assumed any liabilities on behalf of Aabar BVI”.
According to publicly available records, Aabar BVI was wound up and dissolved in June 2015.
As the victims of RM50 billion 1MDB scandal are the 30 million Malaysians as “corruption is not a victimless crime”, can Najib throw light on these questions when Parliament reconvenes on Monday on May 16?