COMMENT The US government has accused Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of having received hundreds of millions of US dollars into his personal banking accounts from money stolen from 1MDB. Najib has not refuted the allegation.
The US government has also accused officials and associates of 1MDB of having stolen more than US$3.5 billion from 1MDB, to which Najib has also failed to deny.
What is most devastating to the prime minister personally is that among the millions of such stolen money in his banking accounts is the famous US$681 million which he claimed to be a donation from the Saudi royal family.
Equally devastating personally to Najib is the fact that 1MDB is his brainchild, a state investment fund autocratically controlled by the prime minister himself that he vowed would uplift the economy of his people.
His persistent silence is now interpreted as his admission to allegedly being a cheat and a thief who has allegedly stolen billions of ringgit from his people.
In a sensational press conference that hit headlines around the world on July 20, US attorney-general Loretta Lynch made the stunning announcement that her government was seizing more than US$1 billion of assets acquired with the stolen billions from 1MDB through a series of suits.
In a scathing statement, she expressed her horror at the free-wheeling manner with which billions of public funds were stolen by alluding to the thieves of 1MDB as treating the latter as their personal bank account.
Backing each of these series of lawsuits is a 136-page, 513-paragraph indictment document detailing not only the evidence related to these corrupt assets, but also the precise information obtained in a forensic investigation over 1MDB’s corrupt activities spanning 2009 to 2015.
An example of the meticulous details of such investigation is the evidence that has been collected to establish the source of Najib’s US$681 million.
This money originated from the US$3 billion bond that was raised in the most urgent manner ostensibly to finance the Abu Dhabi-Malaysia joint venture (later proven to be fraudulent) to develop the Tun Razak Exchange project that never took off the ground.
On the day 1MDB Global received US$1.59 billion in its BSI Bank Lugano account on March 21, 2013, it distributed US$1.5 billion to three investment funds, namely, Devonshire (BVI), Enterprise (Curacao) and Cistenique (Curacao), which then collectively wired on the same day US$835 million to Tanore Finance’s account in Falcon Bank Singapore, which then on the same day wired US$620 million to Najib’s account in AmPrivate Bank, and again US$61 million to the same account on March 25, 2013.
Such intractable banking evidence has of course smashed the Saudi Ariabia fairy tale asserted by Najib and his cohorts to smithereens.
‘Criminal action in pipeline’
Significantly, the current seizure of such corrupt assets is not the end, but an interim measure (to pre-empt asset disposal) in an on-going criminal investigation on the 1MDB grand corruption and money-laundering.
As announced during the press conference, the US government is determined to turn the current case, the largest it has pursued, into a showpiece to warn global corrupt officials that the US shall not be the playground for them to frolic with their ill-gotten goods. As such, criminal prosecution against the culprits is to be expected.
Amazingly, facing such daunting reality and against a mountain of criminal evidence, Malaysian ministers have come out in chorus to dismiss such an unprecedentedly severe US action as a non-event, calling it a mere civil suit (not a criminal charge) that does not involve Najib. Attorney-general Mohamad Apandi Ali even bizarrely said that there was no evidence of fraud.
So, according to their logic, life should go on as if nothing has happened. After all, time will heal everything, they must have reckoned.
Should the Malaysian people think likewise?
Should they accept that it’s okay for tens of billions of ringgit of their money to be stolen without any remedial measures taken, as long as Umno-BN remains in power?
Should they accept that it’s okay for their prime minister to be looked down by the world the way they despise the pariah Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe?
Should they not worry that the fate that has befallen outcast countries like Zimbabwe and former military-ruled Myanmar might fall on us?
Should they not worry about a rapidly declining economy typical in a rogue country shunned by investors?
Malaysia has indeed come to a crossroads. 1MDB is indeed a defining moment. How the people react to it may determine their fate for perhaps generations to come.
KIM QUEK is the author of the banned book 'The March to Putrajaya'.