US Department of Justice’s rebuke to 1MDB

THE US Department of Justice is one of the most fiercely independent institutions in the US. It even launched an investigation into the sitting presidency of Donald Trump, this by way of the appointment of the FBI special councillor Robert Mueller, to check for Trump’s possible collusion with Russia in meddling with the US presidential election last year. 

As this is being written, the dragnet has tightened to capture the likes of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, briefly the national security advisor of President Trump. Flynn has actually admitted to lying to FBI investigators. Trump himself is having trouble with his most recent trigger happy tweet in which he tried to distance himself from Flynn, which could possibly lead to an “obstruction of justice” probe.

Among the people that will come under the increased legal scrutiny of Mueller would be Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the president himself. 

The wheels of justice may grind slowly but as the Trump-Russian collusion campaign file indicates, they do not stop for anyone. 

Consequently, it is why 1MDB will receive its just deserts from the US court of law.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has confirmed that the case of 1MDB is “kleptocracy at its worst”, while the previous US attorney general Loretta Lynch had said that “a number of corrupt 1MDB officials treated this public trust as a personal bank account to satisfy their astonishing greed”. 

She said the “co-conspirators of 1MDB laundered their stolen funds through a complex web of opaque transactions and fraudulent shell companies with bank accounts in countries around the world, including but not limited to Switzerland, Singapore and the US”. 

That is two US attorneys general in succession. So it doesn’t matter whether it is golf buddy Obama or dealmaker golf buddy Trump in charge.

At least US$4.5 billion (RM18.9 billion) was laundered through a web of international transactions and US$3.5 billion more has been seized by the US Department of Justice. 

If Malaysian law enforcement agencies do not work with the US Department of Justice, some US$7 billion will not see the light of day in Malaysia. 

And, even if the US$7 billion were recovered, about a third would be lost to the time and work spent uncovering this grand larceny. At whose expense? The people of Malaysia’s, again.

This brings two issues into sharp relief: why don’t the Malaysian institutions want to work with the US Department of Justice to recover what is rightfully the money of Malaysians? 

Furthermore, why the great reluctance to pin the blame on Jho Low, who is one of the main masterminds of 1MDB, to the degree that his yacht “The Equanimity”, which cost more than US$260 million, was allowed to cruise back and forth in the waters surrounding Penang island ? To date, the Malaysian authorities has made no serious effort to bring him in.

When the sitting Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi gave an answer in Parliament to the question posed by Azmin Ali on steps taken to bring in Jho Low, he said that Interpol had been enlisted to bring in Jho Low. However, the same evening Zahid Hamidi had to back track his answer in the Parliament showing clearly even the DPM is not spared when comes to the mere mention of Jho Low. This guy must be very powerful or some powerful personality is protecting him so he or she will not be powerless, should the truth eventually show its fangs.

The question then is, shouldn’t the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency or the Royal Malaysian Navy be unleashed on the luxury liner to bring Jho Low to book? After all our navy back in January 2011 rescued 23 crew members on the Malaysian-flagged chemical tanker MT Bunga Laurel from the Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden. If we can send the navy that far to Somalian waters, why cannot we do the same in securing this high value target – Jho Low – for 1MDB investigations?

By not cooperating with the US DOJ, the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak is admitting guilt to the hilt. Is there any other logical conclusion?

By not responding to the revelations of the US Department of Justice, indeed, in backing down from his threat to sue the Wall Street Journal many Tuesdays ago, that first reportedly heavily on the 1MDB in 2015, Najib has practically thrown his hands up on everything, except to resign from office.

It is interesting to note that the US attorney-general of the US DOJ listed the corruption of Kazakhstan and Italy too. But interestingly, the two combined did not exceed US$250 million. Malaysia must be always number one, even in kleptocracy!

The 1MDB heist was close to US$7 billion if not more – effectively suggesting a scale of theft that can only succeed from if the actions were sanctioned and approved by allegedly, the highest office in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance, with the complicity of other financial institutions in Malaysia. After all, the sitting EPU minister and Barisan Nasional strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan had said, not too long ago (in September 2016), that the MO1 is actually Najib Razak in his infamous interview with BBC. 

Something is truly rotten in the state of Malaysia, to say the least. Yet in its vile attempt to circumvent the damning opinion on 1MDB, institutions connected to the Malaysian establishment, such as UiTM and TV3, still has the temerity to enlist private US lawyers in the mould of ambulance chasers, to whitewash the severity of the financial malfeasance and theft.

One, Thomas Goldstein, during a talk at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) on Monday (Dec 4), said “civil forfeitures were different from criminal charges as they were initiated only against property and not against persons.”

Yet, be they criminal or civil procedures, the fact remains that the US DOJ has labelled 1MDB the “worst form of kleptocracy”; What can be more damning than that?

When Najib and the whole cabinet, not excluding our own attorney general, are silent on 1MDB, they are complicit to the whole act of corruption, malfeasance and abuse of power.

Hence, the speech by the sitting US AG Jeff Session on December 4 is almost an instantaneous rebuke, by design or default. And Najib’s most expensive photo opportunity in the history of Malaysian politics with Trump in mid-September has gone down the drain. – December 7, 2017.

* Rais Hussin is a member of Parti Peribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s Supreme Council. He also heads the party’s policy and strategy bureau.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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  • I applaud the DOJ efforts. I just wish they were this gungho when a certain old man secretly handed the NSE toll concession to Umno proxies. Your offspring and mine will continue to pay for the folly (at last count, will be many times larger than 1MDB cost) till the end of time. I havent even started on the IPP deal with YTL...

    Today, we investigate the 1981-2003 scandals. I am sure 1MDB and new scandals (for sure) will be resurrected in 2047. That old man may be gone by then to bother about the people's suffering.

    Get a perspective, Rais.

    Posted 3 years ago by Ju bur · Reply

    • Oh sorry, dude! Just realised you are with that certain old man. Now, take off the blinkers, will ya!

      You cannot clean up the new mess without fixing the old craps..the people would like a fresh and clean Opp figurehead. Your party is built on dubious foundation, and can never be accepted without any restitution from that old man. I cannot imagine anyone who suffered under the

      Posted 3 years ago by Ju bur · Reply

    • ...old man for 22 yrs will vote him in, even for the interim. The people have realized that without apology and remorse, it will be a repeat of another 22 years of crap.

      Posted 3 years ago by Ju bur · Reply

  • If the allegedly stolen 1MDB money was never used to purchase property in the US, the DOJ wouldn't have given a rat's ass. Why should they care? On the other hand, if certain toll concession handouts and IPP deals had taken place in the US, you can bet whoever it was who orchestrated those deals would be in the same hot seat as the MO1 is in now. Otherwise, you have to hand it to the 'smartness' of some people, who are 'smart' enough to shit in the same place where they earn their keep, and not in someone else's backyard in a land far far away.

    Posted 3 years ago by Raz Musa · Reply