Archive for May 26th, 2016

Singapore shows spine in bank shutdown

Andy Mukherjee
Singapore Today
May 26, 2016

The adjectives marshalled most often by bankers to describe Singapore’s regulator used to be “pragmatic” and “business-friendly”. To those, a third probably just got added: “No-nonsense”.

By asking BSI Bank to shut its operations in the city-state, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has scored at least two goals and created one group of winners.

Take the achievements. First, the MAS has given itself a leg up over regulators in the United States, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Malaysia, which are also investigating a multibillion-dollar financial scandal surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the troubled Malaysian state fund whose advisory board has been headed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Mr Najib has rejected allegations that he profited from state funds, and 1MDB has denied any wrongdoing.)

While the Swiss Attorney General’s office is just getting around to starting criminal proceedings against BSI, Singapore has sent the bank packing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia Whispers Sow Doubts on Najib’s Ability to Win Votes

Shamim Adam
May 26, 2016

At the 70th anniversary gala for Malaysia’s ruling party this month, Prime Minister Najib Razak raised the party flag on stage as senior leaders cheered him and sang the group’s anthem of unity and loyalty. In the halls outside the venue, the chatter was less upbeat.

Even as party leaders publicly pledge support, some have privately expressed frustration over the scandal-hit premier — and concern that if they say too much they could be ostracized. In the past year, Najib has removed his most vocal opponents from the party and government machinery. While that means he is unlikely to face a challenge soon, the risk may grow as the next election, due by end-2018, draws near.

At stake is the unbroken rule since independence in 1957 of the United Malays National Organisation, the biggest actor in one of the longest-ruling coalitions in the world. Ethnic Malays are the bulwark of that coalition, and Najib needs to keep them onside. UMNO leaders are also keeping a close eye on rank and file supporters for signs of disquiet, even as opposition parties remain weak and in some cases fractured. Read the rest of this entry »


Special Task Force on 1MDB should be resurrected and representatives from Bank Negara, MACC, Police, AG’s Chambers as well as PAC should be sent to Singapore and Switzerland to learn how they could detect 1MDB money-laundering and corrupt practices running into billions of ringgit but which had escaped Malaysian authorities

The end game of Malaysia’s first global financial scandal, the RM50-55 billion 1MDB scandal (which incorporates the RM4.2 billion “donation” scandal) has started with the two-pronged crackdown in Singapore and Switzerland – the closure of the Singapore branch of BSI and the reference of the “top six” of BSI Singapore to the Singapore prosecutor for possible criminal offences and in Switzerland, the commencement of criminal proceedings against the bank by the Swiss authorities over “money laundering and corruption” offences relating to suspected embezzlement of US$4 billion from 1MDB and the liquidation of the 143-year-old Swiss bank.

In Malaysia, the Special Task Force into 1MDB, which had comprised the Bank Negara, the MACC, the Police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers should be resurrected and send representatives, together with representatives from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), to Singapore and Switzerland to learn how the investigative and enforcement authorities in these two countries could detect 1MDB money-laundering and corruption running into billions of ringgit but which had escaped multiple and intensive investigations by Malaysian authorities?

It is a supreme insult and blow to the credibility, capability, professionalism, integrity and authority of the Malaysian investigative and enforcement authorities that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) could order the closure of the private Swiss Bank BSI for failing to adequately monitor 1MDB funds to prevent money laundering and corrupt practices but its Malaysian counterparts are blissfully ignorant of such serious money-laundering malpractices. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why is Tunisia’s Ennahda ditching political Islam?

Larbi Sadiki
25th May 2016

Several months of internal debates have come to full fruition for the reformists within the party.

Tunis – Is Tunisia’s Ennahda party renouncing ‘Islamism’, its doctrinaire sine qua non and the basis of its foundational identity?

Over a three-day congress, the party’s first since 2012, members discussed the question through heated but pluralist debates. Ennahda, a movement that emerged in the late 1970s as a national political party with an Islamic frame of reference, is now committing to separate the religious (al-da’awi ) from the political (al-siyasi).

A vision that was upheld for more than three decades has ceded to a new brand of civic Islamism. That is, by analogy, a neo-Ennahda has not only edged closer to the notion of a civil state, but also to Turkey’s ruling AK Party and further from Egypt’s standard Muslim Brotherhood or “Ikhwani” model: The former operates politics with minimum ideology, the latter has historically harboured ambitions of Islamising polity. Read the rest of this entry »