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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Twists and turns of Najib’s RM2.6 billion

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak still insists that the RM2.6 billion ‘gift’ from Saudi Arabia in 2013 was not for his personal use. – The Malaysian Insider pic, January 31, 2016.Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak still insists that the RM2.6 billion ‘gift’ from Saudi Arabia in 2013 was not for his personal use. – The Malaysian Insider pic, January 31, 2016.
When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the RM2.6 billion donation controversy has been “comprehensively put to rest”, the Internet promptly responded with memes ridiculing the attorney-general’s (A-G) decision to close the case.
From comedians to artists, local blogs to international news wires, many found it hard to believe that it was okay for a leader of a democratic country to accept billions of ringgit from an unidentified foreign funder. 
Najib urged Malaysians to “move on” from the issue but questions still abound despite the A-G’s findings that there was insufficient evidence to implicate Najib. 
Money trail A: US$681 million between March 21 and 25, 2013
WSJ said it had obtained information from Malaysian investigators. It showed a flow chart with British Virgin Islands company called Tanore Finance transferring US$681 million into Najib’s accounts in two tranches, through Falcon Private Bank in Singapore.
According to WSJ, Falcon Private Bank is a Swiss bank owned by the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), which in May last year injected US$1 billion into 1MDB to settle a syndicated loan from a consortium of banks. 
In 2012, IPIC also issued guarantees for Najib’s brainchild, state-owned investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) for the payment of interest and principal on bonds issued by the state investment firm. 
Money trail B: RM42 million between December 2014, February 2015
A second chart showed that former 1MDB subsidiary, SRC International, transferred RM50 million to its subsidiary, Gandingan Mentari. SRC International is now wholly owned by the Finance Ministry, which Najib also heads.
Gandingan Mentari then transferred the RM50 million to Ihsan Perdana, which undertakes corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes for 1MDB’s charitable foundations.
From Ihsan Perdana, RM42 million was transferred into Najib’s accounts at AmBank in three deposits of RM27 million, RM5 million and RM10 million. 
A-G’s take on the US$681 million
A-G Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said on Tuesday the US$681 million deposited into the prime minister’s accounts between March 22, 2013 and April 10, 2013, came from the Saudi royal family.
He did not confirm whether the money came from Tanore Finance through Falcon Private Bank in Singapore.
The A-G also said the prime minister returned US$620 million (RM2.03 billion) to the Saudi royal family in August 2013 because the money was not utilised. 
Another trail from SRC International?
But Apandi also inadvertently revealed a third money trail, starting again, from SRC International, and which flowed through three companies and finally to three private AmBank accounts.
The companies were Putra Perdana Development Sdn Bhd and its subsidiaries, Putra Perdana Construction Sdn Bhd and Permai Binaraya Sdn Bhd.
From the initial RM35 million that SRC International transferred through these three companies, RM27 million finally ended up in one of the private AmBank accounts, with account number ending “880”. From here, RM20 million was transferred to the two other private accounts.
The “880” private account also received RM10 million and RM27 million in December 2014 and February 2015, respectively, via Gandingan Mentari and Ihsan Perdana. 
Apandi, however, said Najib did not have any knowledge that SRC International had transferred money into his personal accounts nor did he instruct any such transaction.
Najib’s response
After the news of the fund transfer broke in July last year, Najib said he had not taken any money for personal gain, and accused his arch critic, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad of colluding with the foreign media to attack him.
It was a line he repeated many times although his critics noted he did not deny that the money was deposited into his accounts.
Speculation over whether or not Najib received the funds was finally put to rest when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed the money came from Middle Eastern donors.
Since MACC’s confirmation, Najib spoke little of the issue, only reiterating that he was innocent of wrongdoing and the money was a “donation” rather than from 1MDB.
Even his highly anticipated explanation to the Dewan Rakyat fizzled out, as Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi spoke on his behalf instead.
Reasons for donation
On August 11, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the donation was from a “brotherly nation” which wanted to see certain parties win the 13th general election because they were friendly to them.
Four days later, Umno Kuantan division chief Datuk Seri Wan Adnan Wan Mamat said the RM2.6 billion was from Saudi Arabia as a form of appreciation of Malaysia “championing Islam” and fighting militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
But on August 22, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said the donation came from their “Muslim friends in the Middle East” to help Umno fight DAP in the 14th general election, as the party was funded by Jews.
Later that same day, Zahid said he met the donors’ representatives who informed him that the funds was in appreciation for the government’s efforts in countering terrorism, and to help Barisan Nasional (BN) maintain Malaysia’s status as a Sunni country.  
After the A-G’s no-further-action decision on Najib, however, the BBC on Wednesday reported an unnamed Saudi source as saying that the money was donated to help the prime minister win GE13 and counter potential Muslim Brotherhood influence in Malaysia.
The Saudis consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, and Malaysia’s opposition alliance at that time included PAS, “whose founders were inspired by the Brotherhood”.
Case closed
After months of investigations, speculation and criticism, Apandi said on Tuesday there was “insufficient evidence” to implicate the prime minister and he would not pursue charges in court over the RM2.6 billion and SRC International.
But questions remain unanswered, such as what happened to the shortfall that Najib did not return to the Saudi donors. And even if Najib said he had no knowledge of the money transfers from SRC International to his accounts, who would transfer such large sums of cash to him, and why?
Given the call by the MACC’s oversight panels to anti-graft investigators to “engage” the A-G on the no-further action, and with sources saying charges were originally recommended against Najib, it could be that the case of the RM2.6 billion is not over yet.
- TMI

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