Malaysia AG’s Embarrassing Gaffe

Malaysian Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali’s Jan. 26 press conference to “clear” Prime Minister Najib Razak of wrongdoing over massive amounts of funds in his personal bank account has been turned into a humiliating fiasco by a press photographer using a long lens to photograph the papers he was waving.

Close-ups of the documents, made public a day later at a press conference held by DAP spokesman Tony Pua, show investigators traced a further RM27 million siphoned into Najib’s personal accounts, on top of RM42 million that the premier had already acknowledged was siphoned from Kumpulan Wang Persaraan, or KWAP, the public pension fund. Tony Pua said the additional transactions were revealed in charts held up by Apandi during his press conference yesterday.

“The whole country is talking about this,” said a Malaysian source who asked not to be named. “This is an earthquake.” However, Pua is already faced with a charge of sedition from earlier revelations of irregularities involving Najib’s finances as well as mismanagement and corruption surrounding the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. state-backed investment fund. It is questionable how far he can push the matter before authorities come after him.

Nonetheless, another source said, Apandi Ali had worded his statement carefully to say there was “insufficient” evidence to indict Najib, not that there was no evidence, and that in his position as attorney general he was free to make the decision to clear the prime minister.

In any case, say well-wired political analysts in Kuala Lumpur, there is virtually no chance to dislodge Najib from his position as prime minister. A long list of smoking guns goes clear back to 2012 with revelations of kickbacks over the purchase of vast amounts of military hardware when he was defense minister. In the past year, international media, particularly the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and the television network Al Jazeera have published devastating accounts of his financial corruption. None of it has had any effect.

Apandi already under fire

Apandi Ali had already come under intense criticism for his decision to absolve Najib from questions involving US$681 million (RM2.8 billion) that was mysteriously deposited in his personal bank account from an unknown source in early 2013. The money, Apandi Ali said, had come from members of the Saudi royal family. But two ministries told the Wall Street Journal they have no information about such a donation, which would have been unprecedented. Apandi Ali neither named the member of the House of Saud nor gave any reason for such a massive donation.

Although he added that the bulk of the money had been returned to the Saudi royal family later in 2013, in fact Reuters reported in July that the funds, in two of Najib’s private accounts, had been sequestered by Singaporean authorities for investigation.

The attorney general’s statement was met with incredulity if not outright scorn by lawyers and opposition figures. The scandal has been going on for 11 months, with Najib firing Apandi Ali’s immediate successor, Abdul Gani Patail, who was widely believed to be preparing the charges based on information put together by Morais, who 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.

MACC threatens to appeal

Although Apandi Ali said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission admitted that based on their investigation, there was no evidence that could show that Najib had committed any act of corrupt practice, MACC special operations director Bahri Mohd Zin told the online edition of the Kuala Lumpur-based Star tabloid that the agency would "most likely" appeal T Apandi Ali's findings on Najib.

The case was "straightforward", Bahri told The Star. Word spread that MACC investigators were demoralized following Apandi's announcement, because of the AG’s assertion that the decision was based on the corruption watchdog’s recommendation when it wasn’t.

That was followed by a statement by Azalina Othman Said, a minister in the Prime Minister's Department, who issued a statement saying the law gives the attorney general the ultimate discretion on whether a case should be pursued in court, so Malaysians should stop debating the case further.

"The discretionary powers given to the attorney-general under Section 145(3) is final, it cannot be challenged or replaced by any other powers including the court,” she said. “In other words, if any quarters do not agree with the attorney-general's‎ action in managing any charge, they have no basis to challenge it in any quorum." .

Close-ups of documents held up by Apandi in his left hand showed colored charts and diagrams prepared by investigators which revealed a complex trail in which the additional RM27 million plus RM6 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 at ’17 recipients’, who received over RM23 million between them.

The MACC document, while unclear in certain details, plainly shows how a total of RM33 million was shifted from the Middle Eastern oil exploration company SRC International, which was built on an original loan from Kumpulan Wang Persaraan, eventually ended up in Najib’s personal account at AmBank.

The chart also confirms separate reports published by Sarawak Report in August last year and followed up last week, detailing how the SRC money had been used to pay two credit cards used by the Prime Minister on his European holidays in 2014.