For national pride and international reputation, it is untenable for Malaysian government to adopt a “wait and see” attitude and basically ignore the US DOJ legal action to forfeit over US$1 billion 1MDB-linked assets in United States

The Najib government seems to have decided on a strategy to “wait and see” and basically to ignore the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) legal action to forfeit over US$1 billion 1MDB-linked assets in the United States, as reflected by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s statement after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting on Friday.

Najib said that 1MDB was not directly involved in the DOJ’s civil suits, as 1MDB was not named in the civil complaint and there were no 1MDB assets in the United States.

He said only certain individuals were named in the civil complaint.

He said: “We view the (DOJ) report seriously, and those named must clear their names, in accordance with legal provisions.”

Although the DOJ legal suits specifically named five persons, namely elusive Penang billionaire and 1MDB “mastermind” Jho Low, his associate “Eric” Tan Kim Loong, Najib’s stepson Riza Shahriz bin Aziz, and the two key operatives of the Abu Dhabi companies, Khadem Abdullah AL-QUBAISI and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy AL-HUSSEINY, four other persons were named in codes – (1) MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1; (2) 1MDB OFFICER 1; (3) 1MDB OFFICER 2 and (4) 1MDB OFFICER 3.

From the identification references to “MALAYSIA OFFICIAL 1” in the 136-DOJ complaint, for instance referring to “MALAYSIA OFFICIAL 1” as “a high-ranking official in the Malaysian government who also held a position of authority with 1MDB” and linking Riza as “a relative of MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1”, the only conclusion point to Najib as “MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1”.

Did Najib admit to the first Cabinet meeting after the US DOJ action on 27th July or to the UMNO Supreme Council meeting on 29th July that he is “MALAYSIAN OFFICIAL 1” referred to in the DOJ complaint, or did any Minister at the Cabinet meeting or any UMNO leader at the UMNO Supreme Council meeting asked Najib whether he was the person referred to?

Or have Malaysian politics and governance degenerated to a stage where no Minister in Cabinet or UMNO leader at the UMNO Supreme Council dared to ask Najib such a simple and straightforward question?

How can the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General or the Malaysian government as a whole put up a pretence that the DOJ legal action had nothing to do with the national sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB, when Paragraph 5 of the DOJ action made it very clear that it was “a civil action in rem to forfeit assets involved in and traceable to an international conspiracy to launder money misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a strategic investment and development company wholly-owned by the government of Malaysia”?

The DOJ action went on to plead that the forfeiture of property in the United States and abroad, including in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, were pursuant to US laws on the ground that it was derived from violation of US laws for one or more money-laundering offences in the United States.

The 136-page DOJ complaint was shameful reading by Malaysians, as to how 1MDB, “ostensibly created to pursue investment and development projects for the economic benefit of Malaysia and its people, primarily relying on the issuance of various debt securities to fund these projects” became a cover for criminal conduct for global multi-billion ringgit embezzlement, money-laundering and corruption.

This was revealed in Paragraph 6 of the DOJ complaint:

“However, 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 in 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 at Las Vegas casinos, acquire more than $200 million in artwork, invest in a major New York real estate 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 national pride and international reputation, it is untenable for the Malaysian government to adopt a “wait and see” attitude and basically ignore the US DOJ legal action to forfeit over US$1 billion 1MDB-linked assets in United States.

Patriotic Malaysians who care about our national pride and international reputation expect the Malaysian government to act with greater alacrity to protect Malaysia’s image, especially Najib himself had been virtually accused as a “conspirator” of the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scam, and not to adopt a “wait- and-see” attitude and basically to ignore the DOJ proceedings, which according to a Q&A on the Malaysian AG’s website, could take years to complete.

Can Malaysians expect a responsible and commensurate government response to the DOJ action at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah