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Shadow of 1MDB lurks behind TMI arrests?
Published:  Mar 31, 2015 6:54 AM
Updated: 12:08 PM

Prior to being arrested, The Malaysian Insider ( TMI ) chief executive Jahabar Sadiq suggested that the police's action seem to have an ulterior motive.

"These arrests appear to go beyond just our reportage about one hudud article," he said, according to a TMI report.

The police detained Jahabar ( right ) and four others, including three senior editors and The Edge publisher Ho Kay Tat, over an article which claimed that the Conference of Rulers had rejected the hudud bill.

The article was said to be false and TMI bosses were hauled up under the Sedition Act.

Though Jahabar did not elaborate, his remarks led to speculation that the clampdown on the news portal could be related to another issue.

The 1MDB exposé

Over the past months, TMI as well as The Edge , which owns the news portal, had churned out a slew of articles on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

These articles exposed the alleged mismanagement and financial wrongdoings in the firm and implicated business tycoon Jho Low, who is close to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's family.

The Edge Media Group had published several exposes about the affairs of 1MDB, including the firm's support for Low ( left ) to buy the Coroin hotel group and a RM1.38 billion land purchase in Penang, a week before the 2013 general election, from businessmen close to Low and his father Larry Low Hock Peng.

The Edge reported that 1MDB had overpaid for the parcels of land which have a number of encumbrances and that it would lose a lot of money to build 9,999 affordable homes, because of the high land cost and cost to evict a few thousand homes that have been there since the 1950s.

Such articles, including the revelations of email communication between 1MDB and PetroSaudi by Sarawak Report , had caused extensive damage to Najib's reputation and threatened his position.

This led the prime minister to call for an audit of the firm and vowed to take action if wrongdoings are detected.

However, critics dismissed this as mere eyewash.

Proxy war?

When the attacks mounted on 1MDB, speculation was rife that Dr Mahathir Mohamad's fingerprints were all over the scene.

According to the grapevine, the former premier was using the issue to pressure Najib to vacate his post.

Mahathir himself had been critical of the state-owned firm, which is drowning in debts, and often remarked that if he was the prime minister now, he would resign .

When The Edge media group owner Tong Kooi Ong came under attack from an anonymous blogger, Mahathir had claimed that it was related to 1MDB.

"This is all because he was criticising 1MDB, so he is accused of betting against the ringgit. If he had not criticised 1MDB, even if the currency falls, he (Tong) won't matter, but just don't criticise 1MDB," he was quoted as saying.

Among others, the blogger had accused Tong of using the media outlets in his stable to put Malaysia in a bad light and of sabotaging the country's economy.

Demanding a retraction of "false and defamatory assertions", Low too had threatened to sue The Edge and TMI .

Given this backdrop, observers are wondering if certain quarters were waiting for TMI to slip in order to pounce.

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