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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One nagging question for Abdul Rahman and Salleh



Supposing I meet a long-lost wealthy cousin in London who takes a liking to me. He had fled with his parents from Sri Lanka at the height of the ethnic clashes and made his fortune trading in oil. Out of the blue, he says: “Annai, your parents treated us well and sent money for my education. I want to repay the kindness by sending you some money so that you can bring your family to UK as we would love to meet them all. Please give me the name of your bank in Malaysia and your account number.”
How would I get the money? Presumably, my cousin would go his bank, say NatWest in London, and instruct the bank to electronically transfer, say £5,000, to my Maybank account in Kuala Lumpur.
Pardon me for this distraction. You may be wondering what has this personal anecdote got to do with today’s column. For the past few days, I have been doing extensive research on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the court filings made by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
Going through this exercise, one cannot ignore the statements made by two of the most famous protagonists of the government - Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak.
By putting the issue in the proper context and perspective using the simplest of languages, I hope this subject could be understood by these two ministers easier. By relating to possible everyday events, it could help these two gentlemen to come up with plausible answers to one nagging question which could end all the brouhaha, confusion and commotion which has taken centre stage for the past two years.
From day one, Prime Minister Najib Razak has maintained that the RM2.6 billion in his bank account was a personal donation from a Saudi prince with no strings attached. But this has been contradicted by the DOJ which claims the money was part of an elaborate money-laundering scheme which involved many parties, including an associate of the prime minister, Jho Low.
Like my cousin, if the Saudi prince wanted to make a personal donation to Umno through Najib, all he needed to do was to instruct his bank in the Middle East or elsewhere to transfer the funds to Najib’s account in Kuala Lumpur. But the DOJ records show that the money did not come directly from the Middle East or anywhere near it.
Can someone explain why the donation was transferred in a circuitous and convoluted route from financial institutions in New York, the British Virgin Islands, Singapore and then on to Malaysia?
(By the way, it is not an offence to receive funds from overseas donors for elections. But banks have a duty to report large remittances to the central bank. Singapore bank officials have or are serving jail sentences for their role in this money-transfer exercise.)
The DOJ filings state that US$1.59 billion was remitted to Tanore Finance in Singapore from which US$681 million was transferred to the AmBank account of Malaysian Official 1 (MO1). Incidentally, it was Abdul Rahman who during a BBC interview confirmed that MO1 is indeed Najib himself.
Again, supposing I don’t need all of the £5,000 and don’t want to be obligated to my cousin, and decide to return £4,000, I would re-remit the money to my cousin’s account in NatWest and not any other account.
This is where all the confusion begins or ends - whichever way you want to look at it. Singapore court records show that Tanore Finance was in the name of Jho Low’s alter-ego, Eric Tan, and a named signatory was Jasmine Loo, who until recently was on Bank Negara’s wanted list. The money in Najib’s account allegedly came from Tanore Finance and part of it was returned to the same outfit - not the Saudi prince.
One phone call is all it takes
According to DOJ, out of US$2.7 billion raised by 1MDB through one of the many bond issues, US$1.59 billion was immediately siphoned into a network of off-shore funds that had been used before to allegedly launder money. These companies allegedly passed US$835 million to Tanore, which in turn passed the US$681 million on to the Malaysian account.
Now, if the Saudi prince had indeed remitted the money, surely he would have supporting documents and if these are made public, the theories put forward by the DOJ can be debunked. It is as simple as that. With the entire hullabaloo over the donation and rumblings among Malaysians, one phone call for the documents would silence all the critics.
If these documents are produced, all right-thinking Malaysians will stand behind the prime minister and protest in front of the US Embassy against the lies perpetrated by the DOJ. In the absence of such documents, the contents of the DOJ filings remain on record undisputed by those named.
The emergence of Saudi prince’s paperwork will immediately put an end to all the half-truths, untruths, misinformation and the rhetoric which has kept the issue of the billion-ringgit donation and 1MDB in public view over the past two years.
However, both Abdul Rahman and Salleh refuse to do that. Both do not seem to want the truth to prevail by making available the documents from the Saudi prince. Instead, they keep harping on the manner in which the DOJ is handling the issue. Instead, they seem to be wanting to sidetrack the issue, hoping people will forget. Unfortunately, 1MDB has been permanently etched in the minds of many Malaysians.
Abdul Rahman said DOJ’s announcement of its lawsuits related to 1MDB was “heavy-handed”.
“It could be motivated by politics rather than the law. The manner in which they announce the case is unbecoming. The language that was used was heavy-handed. The case has not been brought to court, yet they make statements that imply certain facts. If it is still being investigated, why do they make conclusions?” he was quoted as saying.
Salleh, in his blog, was keener to know the source of the report instead of addressing the issue. “The main issue here is not the US or the DOJ but that they are quoting from the complaint that they received. So the issue here is who are the parties who lodged that complaint with the US DOJ?” questioned Salleh.
Hopefully, these two ministers who have been in the forefront of criticising detractors and demonising the DOJ can do all of us a favour by releasing the remittance documents from the Saudi prince.

R NADESWARAN is an award-winning veteran journalist who writes on bread and butter issues with one agenda - a better quality of life for all Malaysians irrespective of colour, creed or religion. He can be reached at citizen.nades22@gmail.com.- Mkini

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