2016 is ending as an even worse annus horribilis for Malaysia than 2015

In a week’s time, 2016 is ending as an even worse annus horribilis for Malaysia than 2015.

Malaysians were shocked when at the end of last year, Malaysia was named among the world’s six “worst corruption scandals of 2015” by the international website, foreignpolicy.com, which is published daily online by the Slate Group, a division of Washington Post Company.

Malaysia was in the dishonourable third place, as the first two “worst corruption scandals of 2015” went to corruption in the world’s soccer industry involving FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) and Nigeria. The fourth to sixth places went to Honduras and Guatemala, Ghanian judges and the UN General Assembly.

The infamous plaque of dishonour for Malaysia cited as follows:

“When U.S. President Barack Obama visited Malaysia in November, he had the pleasure of arriving in the middle of an awkward corruption scandal. Four months earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that some $700 million of state funds had ended up in Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank account — which was not where they were supposed to go. That tied Razak directly to a probe into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a government-owned development company that was supposed to turn Kuala Lumpur into a thriving financial hub. Najib has disparaged the Journal’s reports as inaccurate, claiming instead that the money in his account came from personal donations. But the reports came after the fund had already fallen behind on its payment schedule. Obama claims he raised the question of corruption in a private meeting with Najib, but publicly said only that the government should aim to be ‘more accountable, more open, more transparent, to root out corruption’.”

In my media statement on 2016 New Year’s eve, I asked whether the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, would address such international infamy and ignominy in his 2016 New Year Message the same night?

Najib did. In his 2016 New Year message, the Prime Minister said his twin mega scandals had been resolved and are no more issues, but Najib could not be more wrong as Malaysia had been pounded by the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB kleptocratic money-laundering scandal without surcease for the whole year of 2016.

The dishonour of being named world’s third “worst corruption scandal in 2015” was small fry compared to greater international dishonour which followed quick and fast for Malaysia in the whole of this year.

First, Malaysia fell to 54th among 168 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2015, and would have fallen to 59 to 60 position if five countries, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Puerto Rico and St Vincent – which had been ranked higher than Malaysia – were not excluded due to technical reasons like not meeting three minimum secondary sources for research.

Second, Malaysia was cited by TIME magazine in March as second worst example of global corruption, as follows:

“As investigations of the state fund got underway, it was revealed that $681 million dollars had been deposited into Najib’s personal account.The prime minister copped to the money transfer, but claimed it was a ‘gift’ from the Saudi royal family, about $620 million of which he says he has returned. Two weeks ago, the 1MDB investigation uncovered that the total routed into Najib’s personal account was actually about $1 billion.

“Malaysia is a de facto one-party country. All of the country’s six post-independence prime ministers have come from the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). That’s why Najib owes his position to his party, not to the Malaysian people – good news for a man currently polling at 23 percent, the lowest ever for a Malaysian head of government. He has spent the last half-decade strengthening his position within UMNO, and the past year since the 1MDB scandal broke purging his party of potential adversaries. This past summer, Najib fired his attorney general, who had been leading the 1MDB investigation. Malaysia exemplifies how corruption drives can fall short in countries with a single political party and weak governing institutions.”

Third, Malaysia’s international corruption reputation continued to nose-dive when it was placed second by Economist in its index of crony capitalism in May – just behind Russia which clinched the crony capitalism crown.

Fourth, Malaysia ascended to the throne of “global kleptocracy” when the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed its largest kleptocratic lawsuits to forfeit US$1 billion of 1MDB-linked assets in the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland from US3.5 billion international 1MDB kleptocratic embezzlement and money-laundering scandal, which is expected to be followed by US criminal investigations and actions.

Fifth, criminal investigation and prosecution by over half a dozen countries as the 1MDB scandal involves at least 10 nations around the world from Asia to the Middle East to North Amercia, and involves the use of shell companies in offshore wealth centres, spending at a Honolulu Chanel store and Las Vegas gambling.

Recently, a joke about Trump and corruption in Malaysia was making the rounds, viz:

Donald Trump wants the white house painted!
Chinese guy quoted 3 million
European guy quoted 7 million
Malaysian guy quoted 10 million.
Trump asked Chinese guy how did you quote?
He said:
1 million for paint
1 million for labour
1 million profit.

He asked European?
He said :
3 million for paint
2 million for labour
2 million profit.

He asked Malaysian?
Malaysian said:
4 million for me
3 million for you
3 million will give it to the Chinese guy to paint.

“4 million for me, 3 million for you” out of a 10 million would put the corruption at 70% of the paint-job, which is phenomenally high.

But for Malaysia, this is nothing extraordinary.

In early October, the country was convulsed by reports of the rampant corruption in the Sabah Water Department, especially the revelation that 60 per cent of the RM3.3 billion earmarked by the federal government to improve water supply to residents, including those in remote areas in the Sabah State, had been “siphoned off” by corruption.

The Director and Deputy Director of the Sabah State Water Department were arrested on Oct. 4 by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), together with the confiscation of RM114 million worth of assets and RM53.7 million in “cold cash”, while further investigation revealed a money trail leading to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

But Malaysians are mystified why, after a further series of arrest and spate of high-publicity outings by MACC officers, there is suddenly complete silence on the Sabah “watergate” and nobody has been charged in court in the past three months.

Is there to be no end to this debilitating and soul-destroying international and negative reverberations to Malaysia from corruption and, in particular the monstrous 1MDB scandal?

Three recent developments should be food for thought for Malaysians in the closing days of 2016, viz:

Firstly, Malaysia was named in “dishonourable despatches” in the 2016 year-end summary from Transparency International as one of the leading nations implicated in world-class corruption, when it said:

“What a year 2016 has been in the fight against corruption.

“Corruption was at the heart of many of the biggest news stories in 2016: from the Panama Papers, history’s biggest data leak that showed how the corrupt use secret companies to hide illicit wealth, to the impeachment of Brazil’s president due to corruption.

“We’ve seen millions of people take to the streets protesting against corruption in Kuala Lumpur, Pretoria, Caracas, Jakarta, Rio, Seoul and Reykjavik, just to name a few.”

Secondly, Wall Street Journal yesterday featuring Malaysia’s 1MDB woes in a special coverage “How a Malaysian Scandal Spreads Across the World” detailing how the 1MDB global fraud worked – extending its tentacles from Kuala Lumpur to Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Seychelles, British Virgin Islands, Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington, Honolulu and London.

In its section entitled “Dragnet”, the WSJ feature said:

“Investigations into 1MDB are under way around the world. U.S. prosecutors have moved to seize $1 billion in assets allegedly acquired with misappropriated funds, and authorities have fined several international banks linked to the alleged scheme.”

Thirdly, the conviction and jail sentence yesterday of a third former BSI banker in Singapore, Yeo Jiawei on charges of perverting the course of justice in a case linked to a money-laundering investigation involving Malaysian fund 1MDB.

Prosecutors said Yeo, 33, played a central role in the illicit movement of S$23.9 million ($16.54 million) of 1MDB-linked funds both while he was working at the now defunct BSI Bank Singapore, and afterwards.

Singapore authorities have called the 1MDB-linked investigation the most complex, sophisticated and largest money laundering case they have handled.

Yeo is facing another seven separate charges, including money laundering, cheating and forgery, which the prosecution said he would be tried for next year. Prosecutors have said he “could face more charges”.

Malaysians must have one common New Year 2017 Resolution – to end the series of annus horribilis worse than the previous year in the past three years, which can only be done if all Malaysians are united in the resolve to Save Malaysia and to make the 14GE expected next year as a national battleline and choice between democracy and kleptocracy.

  1. #1 by SuperString on Friday, 23 December 2016 - 10:34 am

    May I add :FinanceAsia has named Malaysia’s Prime Minister and Finance Minister Najib Razak as the worst finance minister in 2016; Cheating in PISA Score 2015; Arrest Maria Chin using terrorist law; MP used disdainful remark in Parliament (“KoK”); 1MDB is a Ponzi scheme; 1MDB is a political slush fund and last but not least ringgits crashing somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean!

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