Malaysiakini News

The 1MDB scandal: It's even worse than you thought

John R Malott  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Like many of Malaysiakini's readers, I have followed the 1MDB scandal for years - not just on Malaysiakini, but also on Clare Rewcastle-Brown's Sarawak Report website, on The Edge (before then prime min ister Najib Razak tried to shut it down), and through The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

So I didn't think I would learn much when I got an advance copy of 'Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World'. I thought I knew the whole story.

But I was wrong.

The book, which officially will be released in the US and Malaysia on Sept 18, was written by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope of The Wall Street Journal. They were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, America's most prestigious journalism award, for their reporting on 1MDB over the past several years.

The news reports about 1MDB over the past decade came in dribs and drabs, as people discovered new things. But ‘Billion Dollar Whale’ now puts it all in chronological order and explains everything, including the financial details, in very clear English.

It adds lots of new information to the previous reporting. Thanks to their sources, we are able to understand what was going through the minds of Jho Low, Najib, Rosmah Mansor, and so many of the other main characters in the greatest financial heist of the 21st century.

It is obvious that the authors had sources who were very close to Jho Low. One they simply call "MS" - Malaysia Source. They also had access to tape recordings of phone conversations plus thousands of emails.

The authors describe in great and fascinating detail how Jho Low, with Najib's connivance, was able to steal over US$5 billion from 1MDB - and therefore from the Malaysian people. Jho Low put Malaysia on the map, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Najib in this book is incompetent and uncaring and doesn't care to learn the details - as long as he gets money for his political purposes, and as long as his wife, Rosmah, is happy and gets what she wants. He knew Jho Low was stealing, but he didn't know how much. As for Rosmah, what mattered most was the millions of dollars worth of Birkin bags and jewellery, funded by money stolen from 1MDB.

There are a number of funny scenes in the book of Rosmah picking out jewellery, all paid for with the money that Jho Low stole...

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