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Ex-ministers should not feign ignorance on 1MDB bailout report

Tony Pua  |  Published:  |  Modified:

MP SPEAKS | Former ministers have no moral right to plead innocence by feigning ignorance over the Najib Abdul Razak administration’s compromise of Malaysian interests to foreign countries to bail out 1MDB.

The Wall Street Journal exposed yesterday that the former prime minister has compromised Malaysia’s national interest by, among other measures, offering lucrative infrastructure contracts to China-owned companies in exchange for an agreement by the China parties to help pay off 1MDB debts. The story was explosive as it was the first time the report cited confidential minutes of meetings between Najib and top-ranking China officials in 2016.

Certain former cabinet ministers were very quick to distance themselves from the misdeeds of Najib. Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted that “as a former cabinet member, I can categorically state that the cabinet was never informed that the China deals were linked to bailing out 1MDB. If there is evidence of that happening, it was without cabinet approval.”

The attempts to protest their innocence can only be described as utterly lame.

While the minutes of the meetings were newly cited evidence, the allegations that China was offered mega-infrastructure contracts as part of deals to pay off 1MDB debts were widely cited way back in 2016.

The Sarawak Report had an exclusive expose on a term-sheet between the Malaysian government and China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC) over the terms of the East Coast Rail Link project where details on how the excess funds were to be distributed were outlined in great detail. 

In the leaked documents, the ECRL project was to cost RM60 billion, but the actual cost of construction by CCCC was only RM27 billion. After the deduction of other fees and expenses, the balance of RM29.8 billion was to be redistributed back to interested parties, including the repayment of 1MDB debts, acquisition of Jho Low-related entities – Loh & Loh Construction Bhd (US$243.6mil) and Putra Perdana Bhd (US$71.4mil) as well as ‘Strategic Consultancy Services’ (US$65mil).

The payments were to be disguised as payments by a “CCCC nominated ‘creditworthy’ company A (unrelated to CCCC)” to acquire 1MDB assets, including the controversial Ayer Itam land in Penang, the fraudulent Brazen Sky and 1MDB Global Investment Limited investment units.

While the authenticity of the documents published by Sarawak Report could not be established, they were incredibly credible, given the degree of detail and the context of when it was published.

Sarawak Report was the first to correctly allege the then soon-to-be awarded contract to CCCC for a massively inflated RM60 billion. The construction contract was eventually signed with CCCC for RM55 billion in May 2017, before being subsequently increased to RM66 billion for additional work and phases.

Of course, none of these would have been discussed or presented by the former prime minister in the cabinet. He may be a crook, but he’s not that stupid.

The question to ask these ministers who are pleading innocence and feigning ignorance is, given the flood of extremely credible allegations against Najib and 1MDB during that period of time, including the explosive first charge by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) which confirmed that billions of dollars were stolen and funnelled into Najib's personal bank account in Malaysia, did you even raise the question in the cabinet and request him to explain these extremely dodgy deals?

Or did you meekly pretend everything was okay, or that these unsavoury details were best left safely hidden under the lid, and that the less you knew, the better?

Instead of probing to discover the truth, did you instead gallivant around the country to preach to ordinary Malaysians what a great prime minister Najib was, in carefully stage-managed townhalls to promote “Transformasi Nasional 2050” or TN50?

No, every minister and BN component party was directly culpable for making Malaysia a global kleptocracy, and for allowing Najib to rob the country and people of billions of dollars.

TONY PUA is the MP for Damansara and political secretary to the minister of finance.

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

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