COMMENT BY TUN DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA
THE DESTRUCTION OF MALAYSIA
1. No one can deny that the Malaysia of today is not the country that the world acclaimed as the Asian Tiger. It is not even a shadow of its former self. It is now a kleptocracy – a country of thieves led by thieves.
2. How did this come about? How did a tiger descend so low as to be a failed country? The answer lies in the corruption of the country by specifically a corrupt leader.
3. When a person says “cash is king” he means that “corruption is king”. That was what Najib Razak said when he became Prime Minister of Malaysia. It is shocking but he meant it. His actions before and after his declaration proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he believed in corruption as a way to achieve anything that he wishes. And among these was his ambition to continue to be Prime Minister of Malaysia for as long as he lived.
4. He apparently believed that in order to be effective corruption must be big. The size must be such that the recipient would find it difficult to reject. Just imagine a man who had never seen a thousand Ringgit is given a million Ringgit to do something wrong or immoral. Few would be able to resist.
5. And so when everyone is aware that he has stolen huge sums of Government money, none of the UMNO leaders or members would criticise him, not even to ask him to explain. They continued to support him.
6. As mentioned above Najib believed that to be effective the bribes must be very substantial. He needed to have billions of Ringgits for the schemes he had in mind. He was not thinking only about the money to be given as bribes. He wanted a lot of the money for himself and his wife.
7. He therefore conceived of very big projects which cost billions of Ringgits. Among the projects were the East Coast Railway and the high-speed train between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. He also decided to buy power plants.
8. For these projects money that he borrowed run into billions of Ringgits. By overpricing some of the money could be hived off and disappear.
9. But Najib found a way to exceed the ceiling the Government was allowed to borrow. He set up a Government – owned company ostensibly to invest. Normally such a fund would come from excess revenue earned by the Government. But this fund is to be borrowed.
10. Although 100% owned by the Government, the company, 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Berhad) was not subject to the Government ceiling for borrowing. At that time the ceiling was 53% of the GDP. He borrowed 42 billion Ringgit, the biggest loan ever raised by the country.
11. Part of this money was used to buy power plants at above the market prices. Much of the rest of the fund just disappeared after having invested in dubious oil and gas projects in the Middle East. Some money was moved through banks in the Caribbean, in the Seychelles and Singapore. Somehow a substantial sum ended in Najib’s account in the AmBank.
12. Later Najib claimed that billion plus in his bank account was gifts from Saudi royalty.
13. This claim can be verified. But little attempt was made to trace the movements of the money. Large sums of money are not easily moved. Cash would be so huge that it is not practical to move it around. It has to be in the form of documents; cheques for example or electronic transfers.
14. There must be records held by the banks issuing the documents or receiving the documents. There will be records both at the issuing banks and the receiving banks.
15. Then the banks must record how the money came to be in the banks, the depositor or depositors, the way the money was earned. If the investigators cared, they would be able to trace the movements of the money and prove whether the claim that it was a gift is true.
16. But there is no evidence that a thorough investigation was carried out. And so the claim that it was a gift was accepted.
17. The sum is very big. The Saudis may be rich and generous but even they would not reward a foreign leader such a huge sum of money for his role in helping the Palestinians.
18. Then there is the money and expensive articles found in the Pavilion. Initially the police claimed that the money and the articles were bought with money from 1MDB.
19. Later it was claimed that the Government could not prove that the money and the purchase of luxury articles were with money stolen from the Government – principally from 1MDB.
20. And so it was decided to give the money and the gifts back to Najib as they were the gifts to him. As pointed out above, tracing the source of the money was not thorough. It is more likely that they were not gifts. Imagine the Saudi king giving so many luxury handbags to Rosmah. There are no documents to prove this. But jewellers in New York claims they sold jewellery to Rosmah. Has the Malaysian authority investigated this?
21. If Najib cannot prove that the gifts were gifts, they should not give the money and the gifts to Najib. Like the Government the proof that these were gifts were not adequate. The Government should retain the money and gifts until the sources are proven.
22. At this moment no one knows where the rest of the 42 billion Ringgit has gone to. It was suggested that Jho Low had taken the money. I suspect that blaming Jho Low is because he could not be reached. It is not possible to investigate him.
DR MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD
25 April 2022