Has China offered to bail out Malaysia’s 1MDB? At what cost?

Has China offered to bail out Malaysia’s 1MDB? At what cost?

China’s economic largesse to Malaysia was back in the spotlight on Wednesday following an apparent renewed effort by Beijing to bail out the Southeast Asian country’s beleaguered 1MDB state investment fund.

Political observers say such multibillion-dollar favours are likely to continue unabated as China seeks to bring a key trading partner closer into its strategic orbit and as Prime Minister Najib Razak turns away from the West, where he is accused of running a kleptocracy.

The Financial Times newspaper in a report on Wednesday said China “had been approached” to help 1MDB – embattled by a long-running money laundering scandal linked to Najib – pay off a US$6.5 billion (HK$50.4 billion) debt to an Abu Dhabi state investment arm.

What has Malaysian leader Najib Razak’s China trip got to do with 1MDB?

One unnamed source with knowledge of the matter told the newspaper that Malaysia would swap assets in exchange for Chinese financing.

“China is disbursing goodwill around the region…so this is not a surprising move,” said Oh Ei Sun, a former top political aide to Najib.

Beijing does not make explicit demands in exchange for such economic favours, but there is an expectation that Malaysia “should know what to do”, Oh said.

The new bailout – if confirmed – will be the latest effort by China to rescue 1MDB, which is facing money laundering investigations in multiple jurisdictions including Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. Najib has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and insists the government is cooperating with these probes.

The Swiss Attorney General’s Office in October hinted at difficulties in obtaining the help of its Malaysian counterparts as it investigates what it claimed was a “ponzi scheme” run by a 1MDB subsidiary.

A civil lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department said more than US$3.5 billion had been misappropriated from 1MDB, a pet project of Najib launched in 2009. Court cases linked to the scandal are ongoing in Singapore, and the city state’s central bank has cracked the whip on lenders that were involved.

China, on the other hand, has stayed clear of any such investigations. Instead, it played the role of white knight late last year as the enormity of 1MDB’s debts and allegations of money laundering became public following a series of leaks to the media by whistleblowers.

Is Hong Kong’s mystery yacht linked to Jho Low of 1MDB fame?

China General Nuclear Power Corp moved in to buy 1MDB’s power unit Edra Global Energy for RM$17 billion (HK$30 billion), while China Railway Engineering Corp bought a stake in a key 1MDB development project in capital Kuala Lumpur for RM$12.4 billion.

And in November, Najib returned from a state visit to China with about US$34 billion worth of economic deals, including Malaysia’s first major military purchases from Beijing.

A RM$55 billion deal for Chinese rail companies to develop a rail link between Malaysia’s rural east coast states and the capital was also inked.

“Malaysia needs help and no one else in the world has the excess liquidity to throw around than China,” said Malaysian politics expert James Chin.

Malaysia again knocks back Swiss request for help in 1MDB graft investigation

“For Najib who is facing political problems at home, Chinese aid is preferred because they don’t really care about good governance when they give out aid,” said Chin, director of the Asia Institute at Australia’s University of Tasmania.

“In a way, Najib is pointing the middle finger at the Western countries criticising him over corruption allegations…telling them that I can go to China if you don’t embrace me.”

During his visit to Beijing, Najib penned an editorial in state mouthpiece China Daily slamming “former colonial powers” for “lecturing countries they once exploited on how to conduct their own internal affairs today”.

Chong Ja Ian, a political scientist at Singapore’s National University of Singapore, said the ongoing court cases in the West were compelling Malaysia to “reduce exposure in the US and Europe”.

“That leaves China as the best option for collaboration, especially since Beijing is currently eager to reach out, invest and build relations in the region,” he said.

Has China offered to bail out Malaysia’s 1MDB? At what cost?
7 Dec 2016 – SCMP


Jho Low family dealt setback in move to claim assets in 1MDB probe

Jho Low family dealt setback in move to claim assets in 1MDB probe

Relatives of a Malaysian financier at the centre of the 1MDB fund scandal were dealt a setback in their efforts to claim assets seized by the U.S. government when a federal judge denied a motion that would have given them time to try their luck in overseas courts.

Earlier this week four relatives of Low Taek Jho filed a motion to delay the Dec. 12 hearing to Jan. 23 so they could go to courts in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands to try and get real estate and other assets transferred to a new trustee.

In a one-sentence ruling, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer denied both the motion to postpone the hearing and a separate request to extend the deadline for filing a claim. No reason was given in the filing, dated Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors had opposed the delay, noting in a filing on Wednesday that almost five months had transpired since the Department of Justice launched a series of lawsuits alleging more than $3.5 billion (£2.7 billion) was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak established the IMDB fund in 2009 and chaired the advisory board until recently.

Low Taek Jho is among the people named in civil lawsuits aimed at seizing $1 billion in assets allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB and diverted into luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, valuable paintings and a private jet.

Low Taek Jho’s relatives had wanted to try courts in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands, hoping those venues would be more hospitable to their requests. The ruling to go ahead with the hearing on Monday could thwart those plans.

Dec 8, 2016 – Reuters
Jho Low family dealt setback in move to claim assets in 1MDB probe


Sly Najib plays a winning trump card with ‘hudud’ move

Sly Najib plays a winning trump card with ‘hudud’ move

COMMENT Whad’ya know? The government is going to take up the bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 originally proposed by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, and table it as its own. Who would have thought a Private Member’s Bill – and one initiated by an opposition MP – would come this far?

We heard the news first from Prime Minister Najib Razak himself when he chose to declare it at the annual Umno general assembly last Thursday. It was obviously the most apt occasion for him to make this sudden declaration, because apart from the usual racial and religious ra-ra-ra, the assembly this time focused much on getting the party ready for the next general election (GE14) and consolidating its growing alliance with PAS.

To be sure, Najib’s announcement was astonishing, but not really surprising. We could see it coming, couldn’t we? Especially when MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, who had strongly opposed the bill when it was first tabled last May, made a questionable turnaround nearly two weeks ago by saying that if the government tabled a similar bill, “I will vote for it”.

Did he have foreknowledge of Najib’s move?

MIC President S Subramaniam, who originally said his party opposed Hadi’s bill because its passing would pave the way for hudud, now welcomes Najib’s assurance that the current legal system would not be affected and says the MIC will set up a legal committee to study the bill and its implications.

This current amenable stance is such a change from the one the BN component party leaders took in May, when Subramaniam, Liow, Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong and MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong even threatened to quit their cabinet posts if the bill should get passed.

One suspects that when the government actually takes over the tabling of the bill, these four will likely bow obediently to the whip and remain in the cabinet.

Sly timing

But what about BN component parties in Sabah and Sarawak?

In May, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah president Joseph Kurup and Parti Bersatu Sabah president Joseph Pairin Kitingan expressed their opposition to the bill, but made no drastic threats.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu president and Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem instructed all the 25 MPs from Sarawak BN to vote against Hadi’s bill, but after Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi pledged that a select committee comprising Muslim and non-Muslim MPs from all political parties would be set up to discuss the matter, Adenan seemed pacified. He said he was also reassured that the bill had nothing to do with hudud.

Najib must have been heartened by all this. It gives him the leeway to do PAS the big favour that will draw it closer to BN-Umno. A closer relationship between the two parties could be crucial in case BN doesn’t do so well in GE14.

Furthermore, he now has the religion card to play to his advantage. The government will be seen to be championing the Muslim cause, which is key among the Muslim-majority electorate and something difficult for any party to challenge. It is a sly move he has made.

The timing of the reading of the bill for next March is also sly – it could be taking place just before GE14 if Najib calls for early elections. This would create pressure on the opposition parties.

Originally, November 24 was the scheduled date for reading and debate, but Hadi made some amendments to the bill and then requested that the reading be postponed to the next Parliament sitting in March. The speaker of the House complied. Opposition MPs who had wanted a debate on the bill that day were frustrated.

Sly Najib plays a winning trump card with ‘hudud’ move
4 Dec 2016 – Malaysiakini


Will the IGP and DPM investigate the Najib-Soros meeting in New York?

Will the IGP and DPM investigate the Najib-Soros meeting in New York?

The IGP, Khalid Abu Bakar did not waste any time investigating Malaysiakini for its alleged funding from the Open Society Foundation (OSF) because of its links to George Soros, the Hungarian-American billionaire.

Umno-Division leader, Jamal Yunos, who leads a rent-a-mob outfit, called the Red Shirts, demanded an explanation from Malaysiakini, and threatened to tear down the walls of the Malaysiakini office unless he was satisfied with the reasons.

A few weeks ago, Jamal said he would start an all out war with Bersih. Bersih just wants clean, free and fair elections.

Why is this pip-squeak allowed to threaten people and still escape prosecution? Why is the IGP not doing his job?

The Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi, ever ready to be in on the action, has also demanded that Bersih be investigated for its alleged funding, from OSF.

The secret meeting which Najib does not want you to know.

Najib met Soros in New York, on 27 September, 2010.

A report about this private meeting is here.

It was first revealed in 2012, by Subang parliamentarian R Sivarasa during his debate with the Perkasa information chief Ruslan Kassim.

The Najib-Soros meeting took place at the luxury Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. It was also the same day that Najib made his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Malaysiakini has also confirmed with a source who has direct knowledge of the event, that the Najib-Soros meeting did take place.

The Malaysiakini report also states that “It is believed that at least one other top Umno leader was present at the get-together.”

Will the IGP, the Home Minister and the Red Shirts leader, find out from Najib, what took place?

Yesterday, Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin said that any Soros funding will have strings attached.

So, what happened between Najib and Soros?

Will the IGP and DPM investigate the Najib-Soros meeting in New York?
By Mariam Mokhtar
7 November, 2016


Najib’s fear campaign

New Mandala

Najib’s fear campaign

The Malaysian Prime Minister’s ruthless tactics to hold onto power at all costs demonstrate that he is the one who is most afraid while his people are willing to fight on, Bridget Welsh writes.

This week Najib Tun Razak is beating the Malay chauvinist drum at his party’s annual general assembly (AGM). Meetings of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) have regularly followed this mode, but the use of racism and paranoia have taken on greater intensity in the face of its leader’s eroding political legitimacy.

For the past two years, Malaysia’s Prime Minister has been beleaguered by the 1MDB scandal that has involved not only nearly $700 million going into Najib’s personal account but also raised issues of criminal money laundering, embezzlement and economic mismanagement involving over $3.5 billion. The case is being investigated and prosecuted in over six jurisdictions, most notably by the US Department of Justice. The scandal featured centre stage in last month’s Bersih 5 rally in which thousands went to the streets to protest corruption, economic mismanagement and systematic inequalities in the electoral process.

Despite public discontent, Najib has adeptly used a variety of tactics to stay in power, which is crucial if he is to avoid international prosecution. The most obvious of these involves a crackdown on political opponents. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed in 2015. Since then more than 10 opposition politicians have faced a variety of charges from sedition to challenges to ‘parliamentary democracy’. Last month whistleblower and parliamentarian, Rafizi Ramli, was convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for releasing evidence associated with 1MDB. This week’s UMNO meeting has called for continued no-holds barred attacks on the opposition.

The crackdown on dissent has also targeted civil society. On the eve of the 19 November Bersih 5 rally, its chairperson, Maria Chin Abdullah, was arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. She was held in solitary confinement, using a provision in the law that was designed for terrorism and national security. This follows a litany of attacks on other activists, cartoonists and artists, as well as ordinary citizens for ‘insulting’ posts on Facebook and WhatsApp. In 2015 there were 91 cases for ‘sedition’ alone. Human Rights Watch has detailed these in an October 2016 report.

The media has also been in the firing line. In 2015 the harassment of publishers led to the closure of The Malaysian Insider. Last month the online portal Malaysiakini was raided, and its editor Steven Gan was charged for simply publishing a video. This comes on the back of the Communication and Multimedia Act being tightened in March. ‘Protection’ from insults has extended beyond Najib to those seen to be protecting him. The aim is to silence criticism of Malaysia’s most unpopular prime minister.

To complement these attacks, Najib’s government has deepened its use of racial chauvinism. From the 2013 elections onwards, it has depicted opposition to it as ‘Chinese’ and reinforced the view that Najib’s UMNO party, is the only viable protector of the Malays. This politicised framing lacks any grounding in reality as over 40 per cent of Malays voted for the opposition in 2013 and the most recent Bersih rally showcased the breadth of multi-ethnic opposition to Najib, especially among young Malays. Nevertheless, Najib’s strategy has increased ethnic tensions along political lines. His ratcheted war-like rhetoric at the UMNO meeting points to a willingness to tear the society apart for his own political survival.

Scare tactics have extended to thuggery, most evident in the crass use of violence and intimidation by the UMNO-linked ‘red shirts’. Some of these political vigilantes – many of them allegedly paid to participate in hooliganism – have also been arrested but have clearly received favourable treatment. Despite official denials, the widespread perception is that thuggery is being promoted by the government.

Najib’s machinations also involve political manoeuvring. He has forged an alliance with conservative Islamist zealots. His government has allowed Wahhabi Islam to extend its extremist and intolerant tentacles through the unchecked and increasingly locally- and internationally-funded religious bureaucracy, with particular support from Najib’s close ally and 1MDB partner Saudi Arabia. Lacking moral authority of his own, Najib has chosen to ally himself with the discredited Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), led by Hadi Awang and his designer suit-wearing appointees. Perceptions of corruption and discriminatory land grabbing from indigenous people have corroded PAS’s public support, as Hadi has introduced a bill that hypocritically strengthens the punishment of ordinary Muslims for immoral activity. This bill, known as RUU 355, will open up opportunities for abuse by authorities in a government where the rule of law is not fairly practised and fuel ethnic tensions. It is no coincidence that bill was reactivated after the Bersih 5 rally.

Najib’s fear campaign
Bridget Welsh
2 Dec, 2016 – New Mandala


Singapore central bank slaps penalties on StanChart, Coutts in 1MDB-related probe

Singapore central bank slaps penalties on StanChart, Coutts in 1MDB-related probe

Singapore’s central bank said on Friday it imposed penalties on the local units of U.K.-based Standard Chartered Bank and Coutts for money laundering breaches related to Malaysia’s scandal-tainted 1MDB fund.

The penalties – of S$5.2 million ($3.65 million)and S$2.4 million, respectively – were the latest punitive measures taken by the central bank in its crackdown on money laundering, having ordered the closure earlier this year of the local units of Swiss banks BSI and Falcon.

The inspection at Standard Chartered “revealed significant lapses in the bank’s customer due diligence measures and controls for ongoing monitoring,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore said.

While the 28 breaches were “serious”, the central bank did not find “wilful misconduct.”

Standard Chartered said in a statement it is taking action to strengthen controls and surveillance systems.

“We regret that 1MDB-related transactions passed through Standard Chartered Bank Singapore accounts from 2010 to early 2013,” the statement said.

“We reported the suspicious transactions, both before and at the time we exited the accounts in early 2013, and have been fully cooperating with the authorities investigating this matter.”

Malaysia’s 1MDB, once a pet project of Prime Minister Najib Razak who chaired its advisory board, is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

At Coutts, a private bank, the investigation revealed 24 breaches of AML requirements in relation to customer due diligence measures for politically exposed persons.

This was the result of actions or omissions of officers who have since left the bank, including Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah, who had left Coutts to join BSI Bank in late 2009.

Coutts International was sold by Royal Bank of Scotland to Union Bancaire Privee in March 2015 and is in the process of winding down its Singapore operations.

UBP did not immediately respond to requests for comment

MAS is also in the process of issuing a prohibition order against Tim Leissner, a former director and representative of Goldman Sachs Singapore.

Leissner was responsible for managing the relationship with 1MDB when Goldman Sachs was engaged by the fund to arrange three bond issues from 2012 to 2013. MAS’s investigation found he had made false statements on behalf of his bank without its knowledge or consent.

“Today’s announcement refers to a matter we discovered in January of this year and identified as a clear violation of the firm’s standards…We continue to cooperate with the MAS,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement.

The proposed order will prohibit Leissner for a period of 10 years from performing any regulated activity under the Securities and Futures Act or taking part, directly or indirectly, in the management of any capital market services firm in Singapore.

The central bank said it was nearing the end of its 1MDB-related investigations and will provide a final update early next year.

Singapore central bank slaps penalties on StanChart, Coutts in 1MDB-related probe
Dec 1, 2016 – Reuters


‘Worst display of extremism and bodek-ism at Umno AGM’

‘Worst display of extremism and bodek-ism at Umno AGM’

COMMENT Every year when the Umno annual general meeting takes place, we can be sure that there will be speakers looking for cheap publicity who will use the occasion to make stupid and ridiculous charges against the so-called enemies of the race – meaning enemies of Umno.

We have seen again and again this same spectacle of the leading political party in the country showing to Malaysians and the rest of the world how deep the cancer of racial and religious hatred is within the party.

This year’s AGM was no exception or as a Malay friend said to me in describing the proceedings: “SOS” – “Same Old S**t”.

But in fact there were two important differences from earlier years.

The first is that the prize for extremism and making baseless political allegations and instigating racial and religious fear must go to Umno president, Najib Abdul Razak himself. It did not come from any ordinary ambitious wannabe jaguh kampung.

There is a saying both in China and medieval Europe that “the fish rots from the head down”. How true this is from this year’s Umno AGM.

Personally I never thought I would live to see the day when a top political leader in Barisan would stoop so low to warn his members that “If Umno falls, we have all sinned”, as one newspaper headlined his speech to the assembly.

I can understand it if he criticises the opposition and their policies. I can also understand it if he makes a speech that argues that the current socio-economic crisis facing the country or ringgit decline is not entirely due to the Barisan’s doing but also because of global developments beyond the control of the ruling party.

But for him to claim that it is a “sin” for Umno to lose power shows how desperate he is to stay in power. His use of this religious card and also the emerging card of Umno power-sharing with PAS is clearly to avoid having to pay for his own “sins” of responsibility and involvement in the 1MDB scandal, the massive “donation” paid into his personal bank account, and the many other abuses of power he has been accused of.

I am glad that a response to this dangerous rhetoric has come from former deputy minister, former Umno MP and now Pakatan Harapan’s chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah who blasted Najib for his speech.

“No prime minister should commit such an error, which may lead to racial disaster,” he was quoted as saying.

The second difference is the extremism in boot-licking and sucking-up to the party president – or to use a more graphic Malay word, bodek-ism, demonstrated by the other top leaders such as Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin.

While one can understand that it is not possible for them to openly criticise their president, at the very least, they could have used the occasion to raise the serious issues of bread and butter and livelihood and employment which the Malay community is experiencing like other Malaysians.

‘Top prize must go to DPM’

The top prize for bodek-ism must go to the deputy prime minister who urged Umno members to pledge unwavering loyalty to Najib as “Allah” willed him to be their leader. According to reports, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported to have said: “We have to remember we are in a time where Allah has put Datuk Seri Najib as our president. It is fate that Allah wanted it that way.

“I urge all members not just to pledge your loyalty through your mouths. The pledge should also be in actions as that is what is wanted by our religion,” he apparently told Umno wing delegates at the opening of their general assemblies.

Zahid also pledged his own loyalty towards Najib as the party president and said: “To make Umno strong forever, loyalty should be practiced by all members. No matter what criticism or rumours are thrown towards the party president, it cannot falter, my loyalty to him.”

Presumably, Zahid has made this speech to protect his own position as the likely successor to Najib. When that happens, he will want others to use that same logic, “Allah has put… as our president.”

I am sure that all thinking Umno members must also realise that the present crisis in Umno and the condemnation the party’s leaders are facing from the rest of the world are also God-sent!

‘Worst display of extremism and bodek-ism at Umno AGM’
3 Dec 2016 – malaysiakini

REJECT such a leader!
We cannot afford ridiculously expensive RM55 Billion ECRL!
All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?