Thursday 28 January 2016

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

By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2016

Malaysia's Attorney-General has cleared Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption in a multimillion-dollar case that has led to calls for the latter to resign.

Attorney-General Apandi Ali said yesterday that the US$681 million (S$974 million) that was deposited into Datuk Seri Najib's personal bank account was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family.

Mr Najib yesterday welcomed the Attorney-General's statement, declaring on the Prime Minister's Office Facebook page that "it is time for us to unite and move on" now that the issue "has been comprehensively put to rest".

The Wall Street Journal said last year that the money had come from firms linked to state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Tan Sri Apandi said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had recorded statements from witnesses, including the donor, and concluded that the money - deposited just prior to the 2013 General Election - was not "given corruptly" and was not used as "inducement or reward" for Mr Najib to do anything in his capacity as Prime Minister.

He said Mr Najib returned US$620 million to the Saudi royals in August 2013. He did not say why the donation was given in the first place and what the Prime Minister did with the remaining US$61 million.

Mr Najib, also Finance Minister and 1MDB's chief adviser, has repeatedly denied using public funds for personal gain. He has told supporters that as Umno president, he is tasked with raising funds for Umno.

Mr Apandi was appointed Attorney-General in July last year after Mr Najib removed his predecessor, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who was leading a high-level probe into the deposit. Referring to another sum of RM42 million (S$14 million) that was deposited into Mr Najib's bank account, Mr Apandi said it came from SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary that now comes under the Finance Ministry.

He said the MACC found no evidence to show Mr Najib had abused his position to obtain the funds, but did not say why the money was deposited into the latter's account.

"Evidence shows that at all material times, the Prime Minister was of the belief that all payments which were made by him were made from the donation received from the Saudi royal family which was earlier transferred to his personal accounts," he said.

STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER26 January 20161. I welcome the statement issued today by the Attorney General, Tan...
Posted by PMO Malaysia on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How 1MDB saga unfolded
The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2016

July 3, 2015: News reports surface that nearly US$700 million (S$1 billion) linked to 1MDB, struggling under the weight of RM42 billion (S$14 billion) in debt, was deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal accounts.

July 28: Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, who heads a probe into the alleged 1MDB- linked money, is removed from his post because of "ill health". Datuk Seri Najib fires his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and four other ministers who were critical of the government's handling of the 1MDB saga.

Aug 3: The Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC) says US$681 million in Mr Najib's accounts came from unspecified donors.

Aug 5: MACC confirms for the first time that the money was a donation and the donors were from the Middle East.

Oct 17: The opposition files a no-confidence motion, accusing Mr Najib of abusing his power to block criminal charges over financial scandals.

November/December: 1MDB sells its entire energy division and a controlling stake in a prime development on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, after which its debt - which critics say was raised to cover up billions of ringgit in missing funds - would be negligible.

Jan 26, 2016: Attorney-General Apandi Ali clears Mr Najib of any criminal wrongdoing regarding the US$681 million.

A-G has plenty of explaining to do: Opposition
By Shannon Teoh, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2016

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's opposition, as expected, blasted the Attorney-General's decision yesterday to exonerate Prime Minister Najib Razak of any wrongdoing in connection with the discovery of millions of dollars in his bank account.

"This will cause people to ask whether the Attorney-General carried out his duty professionally, freely and fairly," opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider news website.

She said Attorney-General Apandi Ali has to give an explanation to Malaysians. "The Attorney-General has a lot of convincing (to do)," added Wan Azizah, head of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli, in a tongue-in-cheek response, described Datuk Seri Najib as not only the "luckiest person" but also the most generous because he returned a substantial portion of the funds to the Saudi royal family.

"This can happen only in fairy tales and not in real life," he said.

His Democratic Action Party (DAP) counterpart, Mr Lim Guan Eng, also said the public would "ask whether the Attorney-General carried out his duty professionally, freely and fairly". "The whole world says (Najib) is wrong, but Malaysia says he is not," said Mr Lim, who is Penang's Chief Minister.

The DAP's parliamentary leader, Mr Lim Kit Siang, called for a review of the Attorney-General's decision, adding that this should be done by a high-level three-man committee comprising two former judges and a former attorney-general, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman.

"The Prime Minister and Attorney-General need to know that citizens will be the judge at the next elections," said jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Twitter post.

Amid the crescendo of criticism, two government ministers came to the Attorney-General's defence.

Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan, posting on Twitter, said the Attorney-General "never bowed to pressure".

"I congratulate the Attorney-General for his wisdom and apt interpretation of facts. Always sticking to principle and the law," he said.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek said: "We have to accept that no one broke the law. When you talk about logic, it's not logical. But no one broke any rules and we have to accept that."

Malaysia’s top prosecutor, attempting to extinguish a monthslong scandal, said a nearly $700 million transfer to Prime...
Posted by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A-G clears PM Najib of corruption: Decision may take the wind out of any bid to oust Najib
But Malaysians will need some convincing to accept that their Prime Minister's hands are indeed clean
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2016

Any attempt to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak will likely fizzle out now that the Attorney-General has cleared Datuk Seri Najib of any wrongdoing involving US$681 million (S$974 million) donated by the Saudi royal family.

As for Mr Najib's call for the people "to unite and move on", some convincing will be needed for Malaysians to accept that their PM's hands are indeed clean.

With 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) - the state investor whose advisory board Mr Najib chairs - swiftly cutting deals to shrink its RM42 billion (S$14 billion) debt pile, Mr Najib appears to have closed this chapter with time to spare before gearing up for what is likely to be a bruising general election in 2018.

Even before Attorney-General Apandi Ali's statement yesterday that no charge will be brought against him, the Prime Minister has been moving to entrench his position in his party Umno. Ongoing efforts to remove Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir - the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad - as Kedah's Menteri Besar, reflect Mr Najib's confidence even in tackling the still-influential Tun Dr Mahathir, his harshest critic.

"With the Attorney-General declining to press further on the money transfer, those trying to topple him will now have no excuse," Mr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told The Straits Times.

But there are doubts that the public will quickly forget last year's damaging allegations of a financial scandal, which coincided with shrinking government spending and the weakening ringgit due to free-falling oil prices. A survey by respected pollster Merdeka Centre late last year found that only 23 per cent of Malaysians were happy with the Prime Minister, and even among the Malay majority - Umno's traditional vote bank - support had fallen to 31 per cent.

"In terms of public perception, this is a no-win situation for Najib," said policy think-tank Ideas' chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan after the A-G cleared the PM of criminal wrong- doing regarding the US$681 million.

Opposition stalwart Lim Kit Siang outlined the misgivings over the decision when suggesting that Tan Sri Apandi should have recused himself from dealing with the case.

"It is open history that Apandi was appointed by Najib in the most extraordinary of circumstances, when the former attorney-general, Tan Sri Gani Patail, was suddenly and shockingly sacked on July 28 purportedly on 'health' reasons... three months before his compulsory retirement. It has been speculated in the public domain that the reason for Gani's sacking was because the Attorney- General's Chambers under Gani was preparing to charge the Prime Minister for corruption," he said in a statement yesterday.

"In fact, many people would say they never expected the A-G to make a decision any other way," Mr Wan Saiful said.

Questions are already being raised over Mr Apandi's version of events, especially with regard to the notion that Mr Najib, who is also Finance Minister, was ignorant of the fact that RM42 million from Finance Ministry-owned SRC International had been deposited in his personal accounts beginning in 2014, as confirmed by the A-G.

"The Prime Minister claims to have returned the Saudi donation in 2013 but the SRC deposits only came in the next year," staunch 1MDB critic Tony Pua told The Straits Times. The opposition lawmaker added that "if Najib is confused about these countless millions in his private accounts, then perhaps there are other donations he might want to tell us about".

KL graft-busters challenge A-G's decision on Najib

Agency to refer decision to clear the Prime Minister over 'donation' to oversight panel
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 28 Jan 2016

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said it intends to refer the Attorney-General's decision to clear the Prime Minister of wrongdoing over a US$681 million (S$974 million) Saudi "donation" to an independent review panel.

The move, announced yesterday after a meeting of its top officers, puts into doubt Attorney-General Apandi Ali's statement that the MACC admitted there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

But after the MACC was hailed for not bowing to the Attorney- General, its communications chief Rohaizad Yaakob clarified last night the move was "a procedure" and "should not be interpreted as rejecting the decision of the Attorney-General".

In a brief statement yesterday, the MACC said its top management had decided to table the Attorney-General's decision to the Operations Review Panel (PPO) and another panel to be appointed.

The PPO, an oversight panel monitoring the anti-graft commission, can review cases by the MACC that the Attorney-General's Chambers decides not to bring to court. However, the Attorney-General is not obliged to take up the PPO's recommendations. No details were given on the second panel.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported last July that the US$681 million had come via companies linked to troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

At a press conference on Tuesday, Tan Sri Apandi absolved Mr Najib of any criminal wrongdoing over the US$681 million and another sum of RM42 million (S$14 million) discovered in his personal bank accounts that had led to calls for the Prime Minister to resign.

Mr Apandi said the bigger sum was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family and that, based on the MACC's investigations, the money, deposited just prior to the 2013 General Election, was not "given corruptly" and was not used as "inducement or reward" for Mr Najib to do anything in his capacity as Prime Minister.

As for the second sum, Mr Apandi said it came from SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary that now comes under the Finance Ministry. He said the "MACC itself admitted" there is "no evidence from the witnesses that could show that PM had committed any act of corrupt practice". He recommended that the two cases be closed.

Questioning the decision of the Attorney-General goes against the Federal Constitution, Tan Sri Apandi Ali has said, adding that it is illegal for any panel or body to be formed for that specific purpose.
Posted by The Malay Mail Online on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

International news reports yesterday caused confusion over the authenticity of the Saudi funds.

In its report, the BBC cited a Saudi source as saying that the donation came from the late King Abdullah "to help Mr Najib and his coalition win the election, employing a strategic communications team with international experience, focusing on the province of Sarawak, and funding social programmes through party campaigning".

The source claimed that Saudi neighbours had also been beneficiaries of massive donations from the Saudi royal family.

But according to a WSJ report, a Saudi government official said the foreign affairs and finance ministries had no information about such a gift and that a royal donation to the personal bank account of a foreign leader would be unprecedented.

Analysts said that while funding from Saudis might be more palatable than the oft-cited bogeyman of US interests, questions remain beyond concerns about corruption, such as the issue of national sovereignty.

"I sense a great deal of scepticism about the whole donation story among Malays," Mr Ibrahim Suffian, who heads leading pollster Merdeka Centre, told The Straits Times.

Mr Najib, who is the Finance Minister and also 1MDB's chief adviser, has repeatedly denied using public funds for personal gain. He has told supporters that, as Umno president, he is tasked with raising funds for the party.

Malaysia's Attorney-General to close probe on Prime Minister Najib Razak after investigations showed that the funds received were not a form of graft or bribery.
Posted by The Straits Times on Monday, January 25, 2016

Malaysia's attorney-general cleared Prime Minister Najib Razak of any criminal offense or corruption on Tuesday, and...
Posted by Reuters on Monday, January 25, 2016

“Based on the facts and evidence as a whole, I as the Public Prosecutor, am satisfied that no criminal offence has been...
Posted by The Malay Mail Online on Monday, January 25, 2016

Here are the 8 BEST and WORST performers in our Corruption Perceptions Index 2015, which looks at perception of public sector corruption in 168 countries. Any surprises?
Posted by Transparency International on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

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