Cracks Widen in Malaysian PM’s Story on Unexplained Billions
Despite supposed confirmation by unnamed sources to the BBC and other British press that the Saudi royal family was the source of RM22.08 billion (US$681 million) deposited in Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal account in 2013, that story appears likely to blow up in the premier’s face, sources in Kuala Lumpur say. Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali made the assertion about the source of the money in a Jan. 26 press conference.
The source of the confirmation is believed to be either Nawaf Obaid, the brother of Tarek Obaid, the head of PetroSaudi International, the mysterious Middle Eastern oil company funded by the troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd. state-backed investment fund, or Nawaf’s friend and business partner, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, the seventh son of the late King Abdullah. Both are connected to the renegade Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, as he is known, who collaborated with Najib in creating 1MDB in 2009 and who is suspected of looting the fund for hundreds of millions of dollars. He is said to be living currently in Taiwan.
Neither of the Saudis has enough money to donate US$681 million to Najib, and it is unlikely they know anybody who does have and would be willing to make such a donation, sources in Kuala Lumpur say.
“There is nobody in Malaysia who believes this story,” said a well-wired political analyst. “Turki hasn’t got two dollars to rub together.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 27 that a Saudi government official, “while declining to comment specifically on the prosecutor’s statement, said the Saudi ministries of foreign affairs and finance had no information about such a gift and that a royal donation to the personal bank account of a foreign leader would be unprecedented.”
Other news sources say the Saudi government has begun an investigation to determine if any funds went to Najib, which is considered very unlikely.
Nawaf Obaid, on his way to becoming a major Washington, DC fixer for the House of Saud, has been heavily involved in providing favors for Najib, reportedly including paving the way for the famous Hawaii golf game in which Najib partnered with US President Barack Obama in January of 2015.
Apandi Ali’s Jan. 26 press conference has already turned into a major embarrassment, beginning when an enterprising press photographer using a long lens took pictures of the papers he was waving, purportedly to prove Najib had no case to answer. Close-ups of documents held up by Apandi showed colored charts and diagrams prepared by investigators which revealed a complex trail in which RM27 million plus RM46 million were made to the Prime Minister – sums that have never previously been mentioned. He then funneled these payments through two further accounts to manage credit cards and payments to what are termed “17 recipients,” who received over RM23 million between them.
Democratic Party Spokesman Tony Pua held a press conference the next day to point out that additional transactions were revealed in charts held up by Apandi during his press conference.
It is not absolutely impossible that some unnamed Saudi could still turn up who could have donated such a huge sum to Najib, supposedly, according to the BBC, to be used in the 2013 election in support of a moderate Muslim government against the “Islamist” opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim. But if such a Saudi does exist, he and Najib violated Malaysian law, which bars a foreign government from seeking to influence a national election.
Most think it is highly unlikely that such as Saudi exists. “Who is this Arab, how does he have the huge sum of money to give away, what is his business, what is his bank, how was the money transferred, what documents prove these?” asked former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on his popular blog, Chedet. “Just a letter from a deceased person or some nonentity is enough for the AG.”
The controversy over the money has simmered for 11 months while Najib and his allies have told one story after another over its source. Plainly the government hoped that Apandi Ali’s statement clearing Najib would end the matter. Instead, it has blown up in the government’s face, first with the photographs of the report showing Najib had actually taken millions from the retirement fund and that he had used credit cards to spend public money in shopping trips to Italy and Monaco.
Now there are increasing doubts over the statement that the money had come from the Saudis. It was always unlikely that would be the case, because the Saudi government has always made its contributions on a country-to-country basis, not to individuals.
It appears unlikely that Najib can be ousted from his position. However, there are further embarrassments coming for him and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, down the line. A US grand jury looking at the illegal transfer of funds is investigating the beneficial ownership of properties believed to belong to the family in New York. Other investigations are moving ahead in Switzerland and other countries.
There is the matter of the murder of Kevin Morais, one of the lead investigators on the Najib case for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, who was involved in preparing the charges against Najib. Morais disappeared after leaving his flat on Sept. 4. By chance, a CCTV camera caught Morais being shoved into a car and kidnapped. He was later found in a barrel of cement in a river near Kuala Lumpur. Although several individuals were arrested, law enforcement officials said an army major had put then up to the killing out of anger over a case Morais had prosecuted against him. That has been blown wide open.
As with other cases, including the assassination of Hussain Najadi, the founder of Arab Malaysian Bank, which later became AmBank, no satisfactory verdict has been reached. Malaysian police absolved the suspected mastermind behind Najadi’s murder after he had been on the run from Interpol for two years, but they have never reopened the case to find the mastermind, and it appears unlikely they ever will.
“Don’t forget, (Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) has been in power for 34 years,” the political analyst said. “Marcos was in power in the Philippines for 22 years. Suharto was in power in Indonesia for 31 years. They used power mercilessly. This guy is going to do the same thing. He is not going to go anywhere soon.”