Who made use of who in the 1MDB “goldmine” – Najib or Jho Loh; or was the 1MDB “goldmine” a joint operation by both of them?

The international hunt for Penang playboy billionaire Jho Loh continues.

The latest report is that Jho Low may have left Macau or is seeking asylum from the Chinese territory.

The question that is bugging all Malaysians is who made use of who in the 1MDB “goldmine”- former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak or Jho Low, or was the 1MDB “goldmine” a joint operation by both of them.

In a recent interview with Malaysiakini, Najib spoke for the first time at some length on Jho Low, who was 28-years of age when he first teamed up with Najib, who had just become the sixth Prime Minister in April 2008, to set up the 1MDB “goldmine”.

Najib said that prior to him becoming the prime minister or 1MDB's existence, Jho Low had already taken control of three listed companies in Malaysia and had significant investments in the Iskandar Johor project with funding purportedly coming from certain Middle East countries.

Najib said: "He certainly impressed many including me with his strong Middle-East connections."

Najib’s interview on Jho Low was significant for its several omissions, one of which was Jho Low’s close relationship with Riza Aziz, Najib’s stepson, developed when Jho Low went to the elite Harrow School in London, resulting in Riza Aziz becoming an important member of the cast of 1MDB personalities who underwent a four-day grilling in the 1MDB investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

According to the US Department of Justice (DoJ) largest kleptocratic litigation to forfeit over US$1 billion of 1MDB-linked assets in July 2016, the 1MDB “goldmine” was set up in September 2009 with a “joint venture” between PetroSaudi and 1MDB – which was discussed in late summer in 2009 between Najib and co-founders of Petro Saudi aboard a yacht off the coast of Monaco.

The US DoJ kleptocratic litigation stated:

“Although LOW had no official position with 1MDB, he had significant involvement in setting up the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture. On or about September 7, 2009, LOW emailed his parents, brother, and sister: ‘Just closed the deal with petrosaudi. Looks like we may have hit a goldmine.”’”

In his interview with Malaysiakini, Najib said he did not ask about the Equanimity yacht at that time as he was not aware of its existence.

Was this possible?

In its expanded filings of the 1MDB kleptocratic litigation in June 2017, the US DoJ referred specifically to the Equanimity yacht when the US DoJ expanded its total of 1MDB-linked assets it sought to forfeit in less than a year from US$1 billion to US$1.7 billion with the total money-laundering involved increasing from US$3.5 billion to US$4.5 billion

Furthermore, a new fourth “”principal phase” of the criminal conduct of 1MDB embezzlement, fraud and money-laundering was added to the three earlier phases of “Good Star”, “Aabar-BVI” and “Tanore”.

This was the fourth “Options Buy-Back” Phase, (covering 27 pages and 90 paragraphs) where some US$850 million in 1MDB funds was misappropriated under the guise of paying Aabar to relinquish certain options it had been given in consideration of IPIC’s guarantee of the 2012 bonds.

1MDB borrowed US$1.22 billion from a syndicate of banks led by Deutsche Bank in Singapore to fund these payments of Aabar, but US$850 million were diverted to Aabar-BVI and Aabar-Seychelles, that “appeared to be, but were not affiliated with IPIC and Aabar”.

One of these 1MDB-linked assets acquired from stolen 1MDB funds was the billion-ringgit Equanimity yacht.

Isn’t it true that Najib had met Jho Low after the US DoJ expanded filings specifically naming the Equanimity yacht as one of the 1MDB-linked assets? Did he ask Jho Low about the Equanimity yacht which had become international news?

What Najib should do, if he still believes in accountability and transparency, is to make public the number of times and the locations when he had met Jho Low after the US DoJ kleptocratic litigation was first filed in July 2016, and state the substance and nature of these meetings with Jho Low.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Iskandar Puteri