The Conspiracy to Save Najib
Fake news at its best in Malaysia
In an extraordinary twist, a new Malaysian website has conflated George Soros, Tony Blair, former US Vice President Al Gore, the “Clinton team,” the aristocratic Rothschild family, Federal Bureau of Investigation deputy chief Andrew McCabe, former golfing buddy and US President Barack Obama, UK critic Clare Rewcastle Brown and her husband, unnamed individuals from the Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan investment banks, and a flock of locals into elements of a conspiracy “to restructure the East Asian economy and political landscape,” but particularly arrayed against Malaysia and its prime minister Najib Razak.
The website, “Malaysia Outlook,” written by the pseudonymous “Third Force,” has printed four exhaustive articles detailing the conspiracy, “a nexus of associations linking key individuals, establishments, institutions and agencies, complicit with global elites to effect regime changes in Malaysia and Indonesia.”
In fact, however, the website appears to be the latest attempt to protect Najib from public scrutiny of overwhelming international evidence of his complicity in the biggest scandal in Malaysian history, the theft of at least US$2.5 billion and perhaps as much as US$4 billion from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the state-backed investment firm that was so disastrously overseen that it is believed to have lost as much as RM50 billion (US$11.316 billion) through theft and mismanagement. An unknown amount of that money allegedly went to finance Red Granite Pictures, the Hollywood entity that produced the blockbuster movie “Wolf of Wall Street. “
The lead investigation is in the hands of the US Justice Department, which in July issued a 136-page document alleging that “over the course of an approximately four year period, between approximately 2009 and at least 2013, multiple individuals, including public officials and their associates, conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB through various means, including by defrauding foreign banks and by sending foreign wire communications in furtherance of the scheme, and thereafter, to launder the proceeds of that criminal conduct, including and through U.S financial institutions.
“The funds diverted from 1MDB were used for the personal benefit of the co-conspirators and their relatives and associates, including to purchase luxury real estate in the United States, pay gambling expenses in Las Vegas casinos, acquire more than US$100 million in artwork, invest in a major New York development project, and fund the production of major Hollywood films. 1MDB maintained no interest in these assets and saw no returns on these investments.”
For months, Najib and his cronies in the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest political party, have been attempting to wriggle free from domestic and international charges over the theft of the money. According to multiple sources in Kuala Lumpur, he has survived as prime minister primarily by bribing the 190-odd cadres who determine the leadership of UMNO to keep him in power. UMNO leadership confers automatic status as prime minister.
Against devastating articles in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Sarawak Report, Asia Sentinel and other publications, Najib, who is alleged to have diverted at least US$681 million and perhaps as much as US$1 billion into his own accounts, is believed to have mounted a flurry of online fake new outlets, the best-funded of which appears to be Malaysia Outlook.
Malaysia Outlook is said to be the brainchild of Habibur Rahman Kadir Shah, an accountant and a long-time associate of Najib Razak. Habibur was previously an UMNO Youth head in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Petaling Jaya when Najib was national youth head. The two became close friends.
“Najib has given control of running the media hounds to Habibur, who has been at it since Najib became Prime Minister,” said a well-connected political source in Kuala Lumpur. Habibur, in addition to serving as the informal media dictator to the Star, the New Straits Times Press and TV3 – the three most prominent English-language media outlets – is reportedly the controller and paymaster, with Najib’s money, for the bloggers who write for Malaysia Outlook, including Raja Petra Kamarudin, who formerly was a major opposition blogger but who has since joined Najib’s crew.
The key members of the team are said to be Raja Petra Kamarudin, universally known as RPK, as well as Rahmat Haniff, the son of a former Inspector General of Police Haniff Omar , who calls himself seademon, and Zakir Mohamad,* who writes a blog called bigdogdotcom. They are said to be paid well to produce what appears to be the very definition of fake news.
In recent weeks, the Malaysian government has raised the ante against opposition figures, briefly jailing Maria Chin Abdullah, the head of the electoral reform organization Bersih 2.0 (“clean”) and attacking the editor and publisher of Malaysiakini, the country’s most popular independent news website, on allegations they are in the pay of Soros, who is accused of attempting to destabilize the country.
But a close look at the US Justice Department document paints a picture not of an international conspiracy against Malaysia but of a breathtaking campaign to divert billions of dollars out of 1MDB and into the hands of the prime minister, known in the document as “Malaysian Official 1” and his family, beginning in 2009 with the diversion of funds into a corporate entity called “Good Star” under the pretense of investing in a middle-eastern oil exploration company called Petro Saudi.
As much as US$1 billon was allegedly diverted into Swiss bank account held by Good Star Ltd., whose beneficial owner was Jho Taek Low, better known as Jho Low, the youthful, rotund Penang-born financial whiz who convinced Najib to set up 1MDB in the first place.
As has been widely reported, billions more were diverted through an entity called Aabar-BVI, which “was created and named to give the impression that it was associated with Aabar Investments PJS,” a legitimate subsidiary of the International Petroleum Investment Company, a state-owned Abu Dhabi investment concern.
And where did the money go? It poured into a stunning assortment of US real estate and other properties. That includes, but was not limited to:
THE L’ERMITAGE PROPERTY, 9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, California 90210 – better known as L’Ermitage Hotel.
HILLCREST PROPERTY 1, a mansion at 912 North Hillcrest Road Beverly Hills, owned by a shell company.
PARK LAUREL CONDOMINIUM, real property located in New York, New York owned by Park Laurel Acquisition LLC, a shell company
BOMBARDIER JET: Global 5000 aircraft bearing manufacturer serial number 9265, registration number N689WM.
TIME WARNER PENTHOUSE: located in New York, New York owned by 80 Columbus Circle (NYC) LLC, a shell company.
ORIOLE MANSION: real property located in Los Angeles, California, owned by Oriole Drive (LA) LLC, a shell company.
GREENE CONDOMINIUM: real property located in New York, New York owned by the 118 Greene Street, a shell company.
EMI ASSETS: including copyright and intellectual property rights, as well as the right to collect and receive any profits, royalties, and proceeds of distribution owned by or owed to JW Nile (BVI), Ltd.; JCL Media, a shell company.
SYMPHONY CP (PARK LANE) LLC ASSETS: a Delaware limited liability company, owned, held or acquired, directly or indirectly, by Symphony CP Investments LLC and Symphony CP Investments Holdings LLC, shell companies that own the Park Lane Hotel at 36 Central Park South, New York, New York, 10019.
WALKER TOWER PENTHOUSE: located in New York, New York owned by 212 West 18th Street LLC, a shell company,
LAUREL BEVERLY HILLS MANSION: located in Beverly Hills, California, owned by Laurel Beverly Hills Holdings, LLC, a shell company.
HILLCREST PROPERTY 2: located in Beverly Hills, California owned by 1169 Hillcrest Road LLC, a shell company.
THE QENTAS TOWNHOUSE: located in London, United Kingdom, owned by Qentas Holdings Ltd., a shell company.
Those transactions are reported in exhaustive detail in the US Justice Department’s filing, which is worth reading for its entertainment value if not its educational value for the citizens of Malaysia. If it is fiction constructed to destabilize the country and bring down Najib, it is a far more sophisticated job than The Malaysia Outlook. Then again, the chances are better that it is real.
*Sheikh Muzzaffar was inadvertently identified as the blogger who writes bigdogdotcom. Asia Sentinel regrets the error.