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Monday, June 19, 2017

Here’s how 1MDB can disprove ‘US$4.5b theft’

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | The US Department of Justice (DOJ) in a new filing said that US$4.5 billion (an astonishing nearly RM20 billion) has been allegedly stolen from 1MDB and detailed new spending from the loot. That’s roughly US$850 million (RM3.7 billion) in “stolen” money higher from the figure it had revealed in its earlier filings 11 months ago of US$3.657 billion (nearly RM16 billion) “stolen”.
It is now putting a claim on US$1.7 billion (RM7.3 billion) worth of assets, up from around US$1 billion (RM4.3 billion) which it says were bought with stolen money in the US and elsewhere, under money laundering laws. That still leaves some US$2.8 billion (RM12 billion) in assets unaccounted for but one can be sure over time a huge part of that will be traced.
Remember too that the still secret Auditor-General’s Report on 1MDB, according to reports, said US$7 billion (a mind-boggling RM30 billion) was still unaccounted for in 1MDB’s accounts. So expect more revelations in future and more stories of obscene spending.
Press reports have zoomed in on what will arouse great public interest in the new exposes which includes purchasing jewels at astronomical sums for the wife of Malaysian Official 1 (MO1) and an exorbitantly high-priced photograph for actor Leonardo DiCaprio from the loot.
The DOJ alleged that at least US$27.3 million was used to buy a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace for “MO1's wife” from US$620 million that PM Najib Razak had allegedly returned. It also indicated that the returned "donation" money was used by Penang born-tycoon Jho Low, the alleged mastermind behind the alleged robbery, to purchase a US$750,000 photograph as a gift for DiCaprio.
But that’s much less than the tip of the iceberg. Those gifts totalling RM120 million, as hefty as they are, are a mere drop in the Putrajaya lake as it forms just six-tenths of one percent of the total amount of nearly RM20 billion that the DOJ alleges was stolen from 1MDB. That’s what needs to be addressed and dealt with.
Puzzlingly but not unexpectedly, the outrage among 1MDB itself and prominent people associated with the government is rather misaligned right now, being directed towards the DOJ - not against the perpetrators of the alleged robbery at 1MDB which has taken place under the noses of the authorities.
These people are risking their credibility by heaping abuse on the DOJ, the only body anywhere which is taking action at the alleged theft that so clearly has taken place at 1MDB by seizing assets bought with the stolen money.
Do they really know what they are talking about, even if they are from the PM’s Department, the PM’s wife, his cabinet ministers, his attorney-general, his police chief, etc, etc? And even if they are 1MDB itself?
For a sampling of some of these ridiculous responses, let’s start with 1MDB itself:
“1MDB highlights that it is not a party to the civil lawsuit nor has it been contacted by the DOJ in relation to this matter. 1MDB notes that the civil lawsuit does not contain any appendices with documentary proof or witness statements to support the allegations made by the DOJ.”
What a cop-out! Yes, it is not a party to the lawsuits. The lawsuit is directed at people like Jho Low and Najib’s stepson Rosmah’s son Riza Aziz who, the DOJ says together with others, have stolen US$4.5 billion. The lawsuits are aimed at recovering assets bought with the stolen money. 1MDB does not even deny that money was stolen from it in its latest statement.
Pleasing their masters
Then they are the usual group of people, even enforcement officials, eager to please their masters.
Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad press secretary to the PM said the government is concerned with the "unnecessary and gratuitous naming of certain matters and individuals" in DOJ’s latest civil forfeiture suit filing. This is only relevant to "domestic political manipulation and interference" and suggests a "motivation that goes beyond the objective of seizing assets", he added. Really, has the US nothing better to do?
Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali said: "We would like to express strong concerns at the insinuations that have been made against the prime minister of criminal wrongdoing. At no point in the civil claims is the prime minister named as a defendant or has been alleged to have committed any criminal wrongdoing." He said that the Malaysian authorities have found no wrongdoing related to 1MDB as alleged in the forfeiture suits. Surely with the new information, Apandi has even more reason now to reopen investigations.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said the police would not interfere in the civil action taken by the DOJ to seek assets acquired from funds allegedly stolen from 1MDB. "If it is a civil case, police would not interfere. No (cooperating with the FBI) in civil matters." Is the IGP not concerned that a major robbery at 1MDB, the largest in the world, has taken place? Or is he waiting for the DOJ to make a police report in Malaysia before investigating?
Well, if all of them are so sure that no money was stolen it’s very easy to prove the DOJ wrong. Here’s how. First, just make the Auditor-General’s Report on 1MDB public. Let’s see if it contradicts the DOJ’s filings. Simple, right? So why is this kept under lock and key under the Official Secrets Act?
Next, show us where the money is. Get a firm of international auditors, no, two of the big four will be better. And then ask them to certify exactly where all of 1MDB’s assets, including money, are from the billions of dollars of loans that they took. Account for every single sen unambiguously, not in some dubious unit trust nobody has ever heard of.
Once you ask them to sign off that all is okay, then the DOJ will truly have no case because no money has been stolen and everything is in 1MDB’s custody. But even if you gave them a pink diamond pendant necklace worth over RM100 million plus US$1 billion in fees, the big four auditors won’t do that. Why? There can be just one answer.
Slowly but inexorably, the net is being pulled in and with it all the big and little fish involved in the alleged greatest robbery ever seen.  In a world where such large sums of money are electronically transferred, the trail cannot be hidden. Even once whiz kid, now hitting middle age, Jho Low can’t extinguish the digital records which include taped conversations.
For all the financial shenanigans, manoeuvring and layering, which some would consider smart, it was downright stupid to think that theft on such a large scale will continue to go undetected. And eventually punished.
Those who blindly and churlishly defend their masters are not just dumb but extremely foolhardy because the statements they make will eventually explode in their faces. They, along with the perpetrators, will be called to account when the time comes. And it will come as sure as day follows night and sun shines after rain.
Ultimately, what foolishness and folly! And at what cost to the country!

P GUNASEGARAM says 1MDB has lost more to alleged theft than any other single organisation or person in the whole world, making Malaysia Boleh kleptocratically transmogrified. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.- Mkini

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