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COMMENT | The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is one of the most fiercely independent institutions in the country.

It even launched an investigation into the sitting presidency of Donald Trump, this by way of appointing special counsel and former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Robert Mueller to investigate Trump’s possible collusion with Russia to influence the outcome of the US presidential election in 2016. 

As this is being written, the dragnet has tightened to capture the likes of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who was briefly the national security advisor to President Trump. In fact, Flynn had actually admitted lying to FBI investigators. 

Trump himself is struggling against his most recent trigger-happy tweet in which he tried to distance himself from Flynn, which in turn could lead to a possible “obstruction of justice” probe.

Among the people who will come under the increased legal scrutiny of Mueller are 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, this is why 1MDB will receive its just desserts from the US DOJ. 

US attorney-general Jeff Sessions has confirmed that 1MDB was "kleptocracy at its worst" in practice.

Meanwhile, the previous US attorney-general Loretta Lynch said that “a number of corrupt 1MDB officials treated this public trust as a personal bank account”.

She further added that “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 Switzerland, Singapore and the US”.

That is two US attorney-generals in succession. So whether the sitting US president is golf buddy Barack Obama or deal-maker golf buddy Trump, it doesn’t matter.

At least US$4.5 billion was allegedly laundered in the 1MDB scandal through a web of international transactions.

If the Malaysian law enforcement agencies do not work with the US Department of Justice, this money will not see the light of day in Malaysia. 

And, even if this money is recovered, a third would be retained for the time and hours spent on uncovering this grand larceny. At whose expense? The people of Malaysia, again.

Two puzzles

This brings two issues into sharp relief: why don't Malaysian institutions want to work with US DOJ to recover what is rightfully the monies of the Malaysian people? 

Further, why the constant foot-dragging on pinning the blame on businessperson Jho Low, who is allegedly one of the main masterminds of the 1MDB scandal, to the degree that his yacht named the "Equanimity", which was bought with more than US$250 million, was allowed to cruise back and forth from the waters adjacent to Penang Island?

To date, no serious effort has ever been taken by the Malaysian authorities to bring in Jho Low.

When the sitting Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi gave an answer in Parliament to the question posed by PKR vice-president 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 had to backtrack his answer in Parliament, showing clearly that even the DPM is not spared when comes to the mere mention of Jho Low.

The question then is, shouldn't the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency or the Royal Malaysian Navy be unleashed on the luxurious yacht to bring Jho Low to book?

After all, our Royal Malaysian Navy back in January 2011 rescued 23 crew members on the Malaysian-flagged chemical tanker MT Bunga Laurel from Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

If we can send the Royal Malaysian Navy that far to Somali waters, why can’t we do the same in securing Jho Low, a high-value target for 1MDB investigations, closer to our shores?

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

By not responding to the revelations of the US DOJ, and indeed, in backing down from the earlier threat to sue the Wall Street Journal many Tuesdays ago, when it first reported heavily on the 1MDB scandal in 2015, Najib has practically thrown his hands up on everything, other than to resign from his office.

Always number one

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

Yet when it comes to Malaysia, the 1MDB heist amounted to US$4.5 billion if not more - effectively suggesting a scale of theft that could only succeed if the actions were sanctioned and approved by, allegedly, the highest offices.

Something is truly rotten in the state of Malaysia, to say the least.

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

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

Hence, the speech by the sitting US attorney-general Jeff Sessions on Dec 4 is almost an instantaneous rebuke, by design or default.

And yet again, Najib’s most expensive photo opportunity in the history of Malaysian politics with Trump in mid-September 2017 has gone down the drain.


RAIS HUSSIN is a Supreme Council Member of Parti Peribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM). He also heads the Policy and Strategy Bureau of PPBM.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

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