COMMENT The US Department of Justice (DOJ) in its affidavit presented last week stated that certain individuals and companies misappropriated more than US$3.5 billion from 1MDB, a public trust agency of the Malaysian government.
The most damning accusation was against ‘Malaysian Official 1' for receiving RM2.6 billion 1MDB funds into his three personal accounts of a local bank.
Who is this ‘Malaysian Official 1'? It does not take rocket science to know that this was none other the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Abdul Razak, and the chairperson of the 1MDB board of advisers.
Why did the US Justice Department initiate this investigation? For the simple reason that the money defrauded from Malaysian taxpayers was used by certain individuals with well-placed connections in Malaysia to invest and buy properties in the US for their personal and family benefits.
The US government disapproves and considers it illegal if money from 1MDB was misappropriated and laundered in the US in the form of investments and purchase of properties.
The US would investigate and take actions, whether civil or criminal against, individuals or corporations found engaging in this illicit money transfer, money-laundering and investments that are contrary to good commercial practices.
It is immaterial whether the charges against those who defrauded the Malaysian public are civil or criminal. It seems that Najib should not take delight in the fact that he was not named and that civil proceedings might shield him from prosecution.
The revelation by the US Department of Justice is not something new. A few months back the Wall Street Journal came up with alleged evidence to implicate Najib, his stepson and many others who were allegedly involved in the shady 1MDB deals.
Contrary to Najib’s defence, the funds that flowed into his private accounts were not from any Arab donors or philanthropists but money allegedly derived from 1MDB but re-entered the country through his private accounts from some offshore accounts. Accounts allegedly created to defraud the Malaysian public.
Given this incontrovertible exposure, it is surprising that Najib adamant in not resigning from his post. While some of his close colleagues in Umno are coming to his defence, however, in the face of the evidence unearthed by the US government, arguments in support of Najib are falling flat. In fact, there is no argument at all to sustain him in office.
Not going to throw in the towel
Of course, Najib is not simply going to throw in the towel. He will try to use the ugly weapons of ‘race and religion’ to build up support. Whether these will work to his advantage remains to be seen, but in the light of the most damning revelation by the US, race and religion might not be that easily invoked.
The political atmosphere might have been conducive during the time of the Sarawak elections and two by-elections, but the ‘sky’ is not as clear as before and ‘dark clouds’ are gathering fast.
Since it has allegedly been established beyond any reasonable doubt that Najib was the sole beneficiary of the RM2.6 billion funds from the 1MDB, the question is how long he going to stay in office. The longer he stays, the momentum in urging his resignation will gather strength. As it is, Bersih 5.0 might be initiated to ask for his resignation.
Despite the multiple exposure of the illicit transfer of funds from 1MDB, the attorney-general, the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency and others are continuing to shield Najib and those closely connected to him from prosecution.
Malaysians are wondering what will it take for Najib to leave.
P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.