Sunday, 5 July 2015

Malaysian PM Najib denies claims of $940m wired to his accounts

Malaysian PM says media reports alleging corruption are part of political sabotage
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2015

The political storm that has been raging in Malaysia intensified yesterday after allegations surfaced in the media that US$700 million (S$940 million) from companies linked to debt-laden state firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had been wired to personal accounts of the prime minister.

This sparked an immediate rebuttal from embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who slammed the reports as a "continuation of political sabotage" and an attempt to damage the country and remove an elected leader.

It also led to calls from the opposition for Datuk Seri Najib to step aside to allow an independent investigation.

Social media was set alight, with some asking why the Premier did not sue the media outlets that carried the claims, or why he did not say he had no such accounts at Malaysia's AmBank as reported.

Said secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Action Party Lim Guan Eng: "Najib should file a suit in the US against the publication to clear his name if necessary. But first, he must explain. Failing which, he has to resign."

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), in a report, alleged that documents from a "government probe" into 1MDB - whose advisory board is chaired by Mr Najib - showed five deposits into accounts in his name at a Malaysian bank.

The two largest, worth US$620 million and US$61 million, were transacted in March 2013, just two months before a general election he narrowly won, WSJ claimed.

The allegations published by the WSJ did not specify which government agency had done the probe. Anti-government whistleblower website Sarawak Report - which also carried details of the alleged misappropriations - said the information was known to several law enforcers, including the Attorney- General's office.

Mr Najib's office said in a statement that "these latest claims, attributed to unnamed investigators as a basis to attack the Prime Minister, are a continuation of this political sabotage". "There have been concerted efforts by certain individuals to undermine confidence in our economy, tarnish the government and remove a democratically elected prime minister."

While the Najib administration and 1MDB have faced months of criticisms from former premier Mahathir Mohamad, the opposition and the media, the WSJ report might damage him the most due to the details given and the seriousness of the allegations by the highly regarded financial paper, analysts say. 1MDB said separately that it "has never provided any funds to the Prime Minister".

Auditor-General Ambrin Buang confirmed to The Straits Times yesterday that he has completed his probe and would table it to Parliament's Public Accounts Committee next Thursday. But he said he was not aware of the WSJ's claims and "cannot comment on the contents" of his report.

A company called Tanore Finance allegedly sent the US$681 million via Falcon Private Bank, which is owned by Abu Dhabi state firm International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

IPIC recently helped 1MDB wipe out RM16 billion of debt in exchange for unspecified assets. Abu Dhabi and Malaysia signed a "strategic partnership" in March 2013, just days before the alleged transfers.

Eventful 48 hours in Najib saga
The Sunday Times, 5 Jul 2015

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that US$700 million (S$900 million) flowed into accounts under Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's namein a Malaysian bank between 2013 and this year. The Sarawak Report blog carries a similar account.

Datuk Seri Najib accuses former premier MahathirMohamadof workingwith foreign nationals in a ''political sabotage'' to topple anelected prime minister. Hesays: ''I have never taken funds for personal gain as alleged bymypolitical opponents.''

The WSJ'sHongKong bureau chief KenBrownsays it is standing by its report.

MrNajib's deputy Muhyiddin Yassin says the ''very serious'' allegations must be probed to clear his boss' credibility and integrity as prime minister and the head of government.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail says three companies allegedly linked to the transfer of funds have been raided.


I am of the opinion that the investigative authorities such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Royal Malaysian Police in collaboration with the Attorney-General must act immediately to investigate all the allegations made against Najib.

- TAN SRI MUHYIDDIN YASSIN,Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister

In recent months, various allegations – all unsubstantiated, and many simply outrageous – have been directed against me...
Posted by Najib Razak on Friday, July 3, 2015


Let me be very clear: I have never taken funds for personal gain as alleged by my political opponents - whether from 1MDB, SRC International or other entities, as these companies have confirmed.

- DATUK SERI NAJIB RAZAK,Malaysian PM, in his Facebook post

3 firms raided over funds Najib allegedly received
Probe follows WSJ report that nearly $940m was wired to PM's personal accounts
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Correspondent In KualaLumpur, The Sunday Times, 5 Jul 2015

Three companies linked to public funds allegedly channelled to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank accounts were raided last Friday, Attorney-General (A-G) Abdul Gani Patail said yesterday, injecting more drama into an alleged multimillion-dollar scandal that has shaken the government in the last 48 hours.

The raids followed a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last Friday that Datuk Seri Najib had received nearly US$700 million (S$940 million) into his personal accounts in a Malaysian bank between 2013 and this year via three companies, and also through a Swiss bank in Singapore.

Mr Najib said last Friday that he had "never taken funds for personal gain as alleged by my political opponents" and threatened "the full force of the law" against his attackers. He pointed a finger at former premier Mahathir Mohamad for "working hand in glove with foreign nationals" to topple him.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday called for a wide-ranging investigation into the WSJ allegations.

"If he is confident the allegations are untrue, then he should take legal action against his accusers to clear his name and restore the government's credibility," Tan Sri Muhyiddin said in a statement.

Just hours later, A-G Abdul Gani confirmed that a special task force comprising various agencies has been probing 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and he has received documents the WSJ said had pointed to the alleged deposits into Mr Najib's accounts.

Datuk Muhammad Khairun Aseh, political secretary to Mr Najib, told the Sinar Harian newspaper yesterday: "The report was most malicious and unsubstantiated with weak and dubious sources. We will take action according to the law."

WSJ's Hong Kong bureau chief Ken Brown told CNBC in an interview that the business paper is standing by its report.

"We are very careful and we believe the investigation and the documents we have are very, you know, solid and come from a very reliable investigation and not a political investigation," Mr Brown told the news channel last Friday.

The allegations, if true, would be the first time that Mr Najib is directly linked to siphoning money from public funds.

The three companies are SRC International, an energy company owned by Malaysia's Finance Ministry; SRC's subsidiary Gandingan Mentari; and Ihsan Perdana, which carries out corporate responsibility programmes for state investor 1MDB.

1MDB has racked up debts of RM42 billion (S$15 billion), leading Tun Dr Mahathir to ask blunt questions about its finances.

According to WSJ, Ihsan Perdana funnelled RM42 million into Mr Najib's account. The Star newspaper reported Ihsan Perdana as denying yesterday that it had transferred money to Mr Najib's private account.

WSJ also claimed that deposits of US$681 million were placed into the Prime Minister's accounts via Falcon Private Bank in Singapore. The bank is owned by Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co, which had guaranteed billions of dollars of 1MDB's bonds. The funds were from a company called Tanore Finance.

Hard for Umno leaders to remain on the fence
By Shannon Teoh, The Sunday Times, 5 Jul 2015

Umno leaders will likely have to choose sides soon in an escalation of the power struggle which has gripped the party for nearly a year.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has come out fighting against a bruising allegation of embezzling US$700 million (S$940 million) and accused former premier Mahathir Mohamad of masterminding the latest attack against him.

Datuk Seri Najib's deputy Muhyiddin Yassin has called for a wide-ranging investigation into the claims - which include at least RM42 million (S$14.9 million) of public funds - and a series of police reports have been filed by people across the political divide,

Tan Sri Muhyiddin's call for the authorities to "immediately investigate all allegations against Datuk Seri Najib" also included a public admission that there are concerns over "the integrity and credibility" of Malaysia's prime minister as the head of government.

Umno has governed Malaysia for nearly six decades since independence, but after failing to gain the popular majority vote in the 2013 General Election, analysts believe the party must quickly decide whether to stick with Mr Najib or to turn away from him in order to avoid a tougher battle at the next general election in 2018.

Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz, an adviser to the government's propaganda unit Jasa, told The Sunday Times that Umno leaders would have started taking sides, given how "desperate" Tun Dr Mahathir has become to "get rid of Najib".

Other Umno insiders say Mr Muhyiddin's statement yesterday indicated he may be veering away from staunchly supporting Mr Najib. More leaders might step away too if Mr Najib, who is Umno's president, is confirmed to have received millions of dollars in campaign funding in 2013, but did not disburse the funds to the party's divisional leaders.

Still, Umno's party structure and Constitution make it difficult to remove a sitting president in the middle of his term - two-thirds of the 60-strong Supreme Council, or more than half the party's 191 division chiefs, are needed to call for an emergency vote.

The Sunday Times understands that concern in Umno is growing over the fact that Mr Najib has not denied the existence of the accounts, said to be in his name, in AmBank. And he has not directly denied that millions of dollars were allegedly wired to these accounts, except to say "I have never taken funds for personal gain".

Veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang asked if Mr Najib was "admitting that there were such deposits, but he had never taken the funds for personal gain - whatever Najib's definition of 'personal gain'?"

Some asked why Mr Najib did not just ask the central bank governor, Ms Zeti Akhtar Aziz, or AmBank to deny the fund inflow.

As one Umno MP told The Sunday Times: "Ask Zeti to deny or AmBank to deny. Nothing!"

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) insisted yesterday that its report was sourced from solid and reliable investigation documents "shared with the Malaysian Attorney-General and... seen by the Prime Minister".

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail confirmed that he had received documents relating to the WSJ allegations.

As the scandal unfolds, it leaves the Umno rank-and-file with the realisation that they can ill afford to ignore the claims against their president as this would taint the entire party.

Allegations may be true or false but Najib takes a hit
Some wonder why he has not declared he will sue Wall Street Journal over allegations
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2015

It remains to be seen whether allegations that Prime Minister Najib Razak received over US$700 million (S$940 million) into his personal accounts are true.

Still, the damage seems to have been done for the embattled Malaysian leader, who had been enjoying a brief respite in the past few weeks.

Malaysian social media was set alight yesterday over the allegations, with some questioning the lack of an outright statement by Datuk Seri Najib that accounts in his name used to receive the money did not exist, or that the alleged transactions were fake. The Wall Street Journal, in a report yesterday, claimed that the funds were wired in two months before the 2013 general election.

The anti-government whistle-blower blog Sarawak Report carried a similar report about the alleged funds being transferred from entities linked to state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The Prime Minister's Office instead labelled the reports as part of a "political sabotage" operation. It said the reports were aimed at ruining the country's economy and toppling Mr Najib's government, despite "successful stewardship of Malaysia's economy against global headwinds - as recognised this week by Fitch's upgrade".

"PMO insists WSJ's report is a political sabotage. If so, where is the statement that legal action will be commenced soon?" said lawyer Art Harun on Twitter, echoing the sentiments of those wondering why Mr Najib did not seem ready to sue the newspaper, as he had done with other reports he deemed libellous.

The Fitch Ratings upgrade was the latest in a string of good news this fortnight for Mr Najib. The arrest of former PetroSaudi director Xavier Justo in Thailand raised the possibility that documents used to accuse 1MDB were tampered with. And Mr Najib secured his position in Umno until mid-2018 by pushing back the Umno party election.

"The timing is disastrous. All the good news around Fitch is now not going to mean much," the chief executive of think-tank Ideas, Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, told The Straits Times.

Opposition politicians reacted to the claims with the expected calls for Mr Najib's resignation.

Those from his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, however, appeared to be split. Umno leader and Cabinet Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan labelled the use of unnamed sources for "a very defamatory report" by WSJ as "gutter journalism".

But the Malaysian Chinese Association's youth wing called on Mr Najib to "take more concrete measures to clarify" the matter apart from the short rebuttal.

The wing's chief, senator Chong Sin Woon, also said that "1MDB should not just release a simple one-off statement denying the allegations".

There has been speculation that the documents were leaked from the Auditor-General's recently completed probe into 1MDB. The report will not be made public but will be tabled to Parliament's bipartisan Public Accounts Committee next Thursday.

Some Umno MPs feel the allegation that millions of dollars were transferred to Mr Najib in March 2013 presents the party with a real problem as it would then appear that public funds were used to help the BN coalition win the 2013 elections.

Even if the latest media claims are untrue, they could still signal dwindling options for Mr Najib.

Mr Ibrahim Suffian of respected pollster Merdeka Centre said the seriousness of the accusations means that, should they be a planned attack, the Prime Minister's "opponents are not taking half measures and are going for the kill".


Malaysia's Attorney-General clears Najib of corruption over cash gift from Saudi royals

No comments:

Post a Comment