1MDB, Criminal Probe Separate Key Aide from Malaysia Tycoon’s Empire
Augustus Ralph Marshall, the trusted key aide to T. Ananda Krishnan – Malaysia’s second-richest man – has left all posts in the sprawling cross-media empire as of end September, several sources told the Asia Sentinel.
Marshall has been under investigation in the past few years in India and Indonesia over joint ventures by Malaysia’s dominant satellite television provider Astro and cellular provider Maxis, both part of Ananda Krishnan’s business empire.
Swiss prosecutors have also asked for information on one of the companies Marshall sits in – Tanjong PLC – over money missing in the USD11 billion 1MDB scandal.
Company insiders and those in business circles say Marshall’s exit from Ananda Krishnan’s companies is anything but amicable. “It is a terribly acrimonious break,” said an executive who has worked with Marshall.
Corporate Malaysia heard rumors of the impending departure from Ananda Krishnan’s empire in the past month but are awaiting announcements to be made in Bursa Malaysia, the local stock bourse, when it opens after the Oct. 3 public holiday to celebrate the Muslim New Year.
“He is leaving AK, and not in the best of ways,” according to a businessman who is close to Marshall. AK is the moniker for Ananda Krishnan, who first made his fortune in the oil and gas boom of late 1970s before entering the telecommunications and satellite television industries.
Ananda Krishnan’s key aide
Forbes has listed Ananda Krishnan as the 158th wealthiest person in the world with US$7.3 billion and second wealthiest Malaysian in March 2016. He was 129th wealthiest in 2015 with a personal fortune of US$9.7 billion but his wealth tanked due falling Maxis share prices.
With nearly 40 years of experience in financial and general management, Marshall has been with Ananda Krishnan when the reclusive tycoon was given a cellular communications license and an exclusive 21-year concession to run Malaysia’s first and only satellite television provider. That license expires next year.
The 64-year-old was last the executive director of Ananda Krishnan’s private vehicle Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd and also in ASTRO ALL ASIA NETWORKS plc, where he is also the deputy chairman, apart from being group chief executive officer of Tanjong Public Limited Company, where Usaha Tegas has a significant interest.
Marshall resigned in July 2015 as non-independent executive director of Maxis Bhd, the cellular provider which is partially owned by Saudi Arabia’s dominant provider Saudi Telecom Co, Usaha Tegas also has a significant stake in Maxis.
Marshall, who is regularly cited in the business media in Ananda Krishnan’s corporate deals, found himself in the other sections of regional newspapers in 2014 when police in India filed corruption charges against Dayanidhi Maran, who was India’s telecommunications minister between 2004 and 2007; and his brother billionaire Kalanithi Maran.
Both Ananda Krishnan and Marshall were named in the charge sheet with India requesting extradition but Malaysian police have said the request has not been made officially. Both Ananda Krishnan and Marshall have not discussed the matter publicly.
Reuters reported that India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) started investigating the Maran brothers and Ananda Krishnan in 2011 after allegations that the telecoms minister had forced the sale of mobile carrier Aircel, allowing Maxis to acquire a controlling stake in 2006.
Maxis Communications Bhd has denied any wrongdoing and said it would vigorously pursue all available legal remedies to defend itself and Marshall, the Reuters news agency said.
In 2012, Marshall was also named a suspect in a case that involved illegal use of operational funds in a company in Indonesia.
The Jakarta Globe reported the Indonesian police were in the process of requesting Interpol to issue a Red Notice against Marshall, who was then group chief executive officer of Astro All Asia Networks. The matter has since been resolved.
In January this year, Ananda Krishnan’s company Tanjong PLC, where Marshall is a top executive, was named in the Switzerland Attorney-General investigations into the 1MDB scandal, the biggest in Malaysia’s history, which has tarred Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The Swiss Attorney-General asked Malaysia’s assistance in its investigations into alleged misappropriation of US$4 billion linked to 1MDB - the first time that a foreign-government investigator has openly waded into the financial scandal.
The Switzerland's Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) said funds were transferred to Swiss accounts belonging to former Malaysian public officials and were seeking information on 1MDB and its former subsidiary SRC International apart from Malaysian conglomerates Genting and Tanjong said to be connected to the money missing from government companies.
The OAG said four cases involve allegations of criminal conduct - bribery of foreign public officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement. It said these occurred between 2009 and 2013 relating to PetroSaudi, Genting and Tanjong, SRC and Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Company (ADMIC), with the cases "each involving a systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures".
"So far, it has been ascertained that a small portion of the money was transferred to accounts held in Switzerland by various former Malaysian public officials and both former and current public officials from the United Arab Emirates," the OAG said of the probe it opened in August last year.
Private Saudi energy firm PetroSaudi was involved in a plan in 2009 to jointly develop an oil field with 1MDB but the venture was aborted, with questions raised over the return of 1MDB's initial investments.
Genting and Tanjong sold power plants to 1MDB at what were considered inflated prices in 2012. ADMIC was a joint venture between Abu Dhabi's state fund Aabar Investments and 1MDB to jointly develop the Tun Razak Exchange financial hub in Kuala Lumpur.
Outside the tycoon’s ventures, Marshall has interests in the food-and-beverage sector in capital city Kuala Lumpur that ranges from upscale European restaurants to a cricket bar.