Who Covered Up Malaysian Banker’s Assassination?

In late October last year, Kuala Lumpur police arrested Lim Yuen Soo, the alleged mastermind behind the 2013 assassination of Malaysia’s AmBank founder Hussain Najadi, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Lim had been on the run from an international manhunt for two years. Eight days later, police turned him loose for lack of evidence.

(See story: Alleged Mastermind in Malaysian Banker’s Murder Arrested then Freed)

At the time, Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Chief Zainuddin Ahmad was quoted as saying there “was insufficient evidence to charge [Lim], so we released him,” adding that the case was referred to the office of Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali. This raised more questions than it answered.

How did he get off?

Zainuddin didn’t elaborate on how the suspect was cleared despite being on an Interpol red alert list for two years. No one beside Koong Swee Kwan, the gunman, who was sentenced to death after being paid RM20,000, has been charged with the crime subsequently although someone clearly paid him to kill the banker. The murder case has never been reopened and appears unlikely to be.

All of that has raised questions about whether Lim has friends in Malaysia’s high political circles. Despite his status as a fugitive, Lim was the registered part owner of the Active Force Security Services Sdn Bhd. with the former Malacca Police Chief Mohd Khasni Mohd Nor.

Hussain’s son Pascal Najadi for months has claimed that the killing was connected to the 1MDB scandal, which has riveted political attention on Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal Ambank bank account. A mysterious US$681 million was deposited in that account in early 2013 and was equally mysteriously withdrawn and sent to a bank in Singapore months later.

Authorities, however, have said the assassination had nothing to do with politics and instead involved a property deal. In this version of reality, Hussain had been trying to prevent the acquisition of Chinese temple land for development. His Chinese wife was also wounded in the shooting.

Mystery meeting

In any case, four days after Lim was released last year, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous, he was seen in a Chinese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur with three of the country’s most prominent Chinese figures.

According to the witness, they were Tan Kok Ping, the executive adviser to the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce and managing director of Berjaya Sports Toto Bhd; *Loh Geok Beng, managing director of Wabina Construction & Engineering Sdn. Bhd; and Michael Chong, head of the Complaint & Action Department of the Malaysian Chinese Association and an adviser to Najib for Chinese-related matters. What the meeting was about is unclear.

If the meeting took place, and there is no confirmation beyond the informant that it did, it is another of the mysteries that surround Hussain’s death. A longtime trusted source in Kuala Lumpur says Hussain had left Ambank long before the transactions involving Najib, although as the founder he would have had access to officials there.

In two conversations over lunch in Kuala Lumpur, Pascal Najadi said, his father complained about financial irregularities involving the United Malays National Organization prior to his death, refusing to orchestrate a multi-billion ringgit property deal connected to the Kuala Lumpur City Center. On one occasion, Pascal said, he told his son that Najib was “lining his pockets with billions of ringgit with no consideration for the future of the country.”

Pascal told Asia Sentinel at least two trusted informants have independently confirmed to him that “Lim was covered by big guys and huge cash” – as much as RM30 million (US$7.24 million) to oversee the murder. One of those sources, he said, told him an influential senior Chinese businessman had coordinated a temporary safe house exile for Lim in China and that Lim had received a new identity and Malaysian passport.

Despite the Interpol red notice calling for his arrest, Lim apparently was able to travel freely, going into hiding in Australia after the shooting. He reportedly was flying back to Kuala Lumpur from China when airport authorities arrested him.

“Malaysian triad gangs cannot function without Malaysian top politicians,” the source said in his email. “It’s business vice versa. There is no doubt in my mind that order… came from a top government official to one of the Chinese gang triad bosses who then executed that order well. In any normal country a crime suspect or especially one who is wanted on the Interpol list will be brought to justice but here in this country the perpetrator walks out free, like nothing happened.”

*The source for this story said Loh Geok Beng was close to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. Lim said Loh is no friend of his and in fact campaigned against him in the most recent election.