Kleptocracy probe moves on despite Najib's White House trip

The Malaysian Insight

Najib Razak’s last visit to the United States was at the United Nations general assembly in 2015. The prime minister is heading for Washington this weekend and is scheduled to meet President Donald Trump. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, September 7, 2017.

PRIME Minister Najib Razak’s inner circle is overjoyed over his White House visit next week, believing that the American kleptocracy probe is limited to flamboyant financier Jho Low now.

The Malaysian Insight understands there are still moves to lay the entire blame for the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal on Jho, the preferred name of the Penang-born Low Taek Jho.

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal probe is also eyeing Najib’s stepson, RIza Aziz, a shareholder of Red Granite Production Inc, the studio behind The Wolf of Wall Street and Dumb and Dumber To films.

“They can’t throw only Jho Low under the bus for the 1MDB fiasco. Riza Aziz is also implicated in the civil suits,” said lawyers familiar with the case.

“It is really a case of kleptocracy and money laundering. So Najib’s visit won’t change anything,” one lawyer said.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has launched a criminal investigation into funds allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB and has sought to delay civil suits filed in the past two years to forfeit more than US$1 billion (RM4.3 billion) in real estate and other assets.

In the civil cases, the department alleged that between 2009 and 2015, more than US$4.5 billion belonging to 1MDB was diverted by high-level officials of the state investor and their associates.

In June, the DoJ filed another suit to seize US$540 million in assets, including the US$165 million yacht Equanimity, owned by Jho, and the rights to Dumb and Dumber To.

Other assets were acquired by Khadem al Qubaisi, the former managing director of Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co.

Bloomberg reported yesterday in a federal court filing in Los Angeles, the FBI said several individuals in “certain foreign countries” are concerned for their safety, while others say it’s too dangerous to cooperate with the criminal probe into 1Malaysia Development Bhd”.

Bloomberg said witnesses, who have come forward to provide information, have told the FBI they’re worried about putting “the safety and security of both themselves and their families at serious risk”.  

In its filing, the FBI cited Malaysian news reports of local officials who have been arrested because of their purported role in investigating embezzlement in 1MDB.

It cited the August 29 shooting of the driver of former Malaysian attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, who opened the initial probe into 1MDB, as a possible warning to the former prosecutor not to cooperate with the US.

The US investigation is part of a global effort to track how much of the US$6 billion that 1MDB raised for development projects was embezzled or involved in money laundering.

The opposition has branded Najib’s White House visit as “shameful”, given that the DoJ has accused him of being a kleptocrat in relation to the 1MDB scandal. The DoJ cites Malaysian Official 1 (MO1) as the main beneficiary of the assets it is seeking to recover.

In September last year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan confirmed that MO1 was Najib. – September 7, 2017.

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