Behind the 1MDB scandal – Part 3

Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure

In early 2011, Good Star sent $US24.5 million to a Riyadh bank account held by Prince Turki, the PetroSaudi co-owner, according to the Justice Department complaint. The prince then sent $US20 million via an intermediary to Mr Najib’s private accounts at AmBank in Kuala Lumpur, according to the complaint and someone familiar with the probe. The prince couldn’t be reached for comment, and a lawyer for PetroSaudi didn’t respond to requests for comment on the transfer.

The transfer represented the first drip of what would become a flood of cash — about $US1 billion — that flowed into Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts over the next two years, according to the bank-transfer records. Nearly all originated with 1MDB, according to the Justice Department and the transfer records.

The prime minister gave Mr Low access to the accounts, according to investigative documents. His primary contact at AmBank was Joanna Yu, the banker he had warned via BlackBerry to communicate discreetly. Cheah Tek Kuang, a senior AmBank executive and adviser to the chairman, handled the account personally, the BlackBerry messages indicate.

Mr Low messaged that if Malaysia’s central-bank governor, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, raised concerns about 1MDB-related transfers, Mr Cheah was to see her and “let her know this is boss request,” an apparent reference to Mr Najib.

An AmBank spokesman declined to comment, as did Ms. Zeti. Ms. Yu and Mr Cheah didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mr Low sent hampers of food to Ms. Yu and lunched with her at noodle shops, according to the phone messages. He kept reinforcing the need for secrecy: “v v important no one should know in ambank besides u or cheah or get hold of statement,” one message said. “Cause if it gets on internet where funds were from then headache.”

Investigators believe someone in Mr Low’s entourage created letters vouching for the origin of the funds, according to people familiar with probes in two countries.

A letter dated February 1, 2011, which was reviewed by the Journal, said Mr Najib was being given $US100 million as a reward for Malaysia’s “good work to promote Islam around the world.” It said the gift “should not in any event be construed as an act of corruption.”

It was signed Saud Abdulaziz Majid al Saud, who is a minor Saudi royal. But he donated no money and wasn’t the instigator of the letter, according to a person involved in the matter. The prince didn’t respond to requests for comment.

AmBank’s Mr Cheah sent the letter to the central bank.

More such letters followed, some using nearly identical language, describing purported gifts of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure
Tom Wright, Bradley Hope
Wall Street Journal
September 6, 2016 – The Australian


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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

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

- Thomas Jefferson
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