By Jose Barrock, KiniBiz

1MDB a giant Ponzi scheme or strategic investment fund?

Last week, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) a government-owned entity closely-linked to premier Najib Abdul Razak had a change at its helm.

azlanHazem Abdul Rahman has now taken over the chief executive officer (CEO) role from Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who has joined the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu).

Surprisingly, no announcements were made and it was via a news report that the update was disseminated.

For a high-profile government-owned body which has made billions of ringgit in investments and issued large amounts of bonds, we would have expected more.

At about the same time last week, Bloomberg reported that 1MDB had issued US$3 billion (about RM9.4 billion) in debt papers on March 19, on the quiet.

According to Bloomberg, 1MDB already has issued RM10.8 billion in debt papers, taking total bonds issued to over RM20 billion.

"It’s a wonder why things are so opaque at 1MDB... they should just announce the change, announce a bond issue, announce anything material.

"It’s not very good being so secretive. When it’s a government-owned unit, there is a need for transparency,” a market watcher said.

In July last year it was the same, 1MDB issued US$1.75 billion in 10-year debt papers, with yields just shy of six percent.

Shrouded in secrecy

And strangely enough, it was guaranteed by International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), an Abu Dhabi government investment fund.

NONEA fund manager added, “God knows what they are doing there (at 1MDB), so much in debt papers have been issued... and it’s clearly Najib’s baby... wonder what will happen after he steps down or is no longer in power?”

Much of what 1MDB does is often shrouded in secrecy, and leaves many questions unanswered. Why did it issue bonds at such a favourable rate to buyers?

Who is PetroSaudi and what has it to do with it 1MBD? Why the Middle East investors?

Why is 1MDB getting government land cheaply and then bringing in foreign partners to develop it? Why the tax concession for developers who undertake projects on these lands?

Why buy power assets, some of them about to expire even?

But to understand all that, one needs to venture back in time and analyse the history of 1MDB, which is in itself quite interesting.

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