Will Najib back out of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit as he is again dogged by the 3Is – infamy, ignominy and iniquity - 1MDB scandal and Malaysia as a global kleptocracy
Will the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak back out of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney this weekend as he is again dogged by the 3Is – infamy, ignominy and iniquity – of the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB money-laundering scandal and Malaysia as a global kleptocracy?
Although the Swiss Parliament yesterday rejected the motion seeking the repatriation of the Swiss government’s seizure of some RM430 million of 1MDB-embezzled funds from Swiss banks to the people of Malaysia, Najib and the Malaysian Government have not come out of the Swiss Parliamentary motion and scrutiny smelling like roses.
The Swiss motion by Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP) MP, Carlo Sommaruga was defeated by 138 votes against it and 53 vote for it.
But it was not defeated because the Swiss government rejected the principle of the repatriation of corruption money hidden or stashed away overseas from their country of origin and their use to benefit the nationals harmed by such corrupt practices - a principle accepted internationally as a result of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption 2003.
Article 35 of the UN Convention Against Corruption upheld the principle that “entities or persons who have suffered damage as a result of an act of corruption have the right to initiate legal proceedings against those responsible for that damage in order to obtain compensation”.
The Swiss motion was defeated in the Swiss Parliament because, as stated by the Swiss Foreign Minister, the motion was too “open” raising issues on the separation of powers.
While the Swiss government recognizes the principle of restitution of confiscated assets from corruption, embezzlement and money-laundering if the origin of the assets was located outside Switzerland, the Swiss government criticized the formulation of the motion as “quite open, quite general” and suggested that a new motion which is more focused be presented.
Peter Hug, the international secretary of the Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP) which tabled the motion, has said that “final word” on the restitution of the confiscated 1MDB-linked assets had not been made, and that the “big mobilization in Malaysia” had its effects and should be maintained.
Hug said: "I am quite optimistic that in the end, the confiscated 1MDB assets shall be restituted to the Malaysian people. This is the aim of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland and we shall do our best to succeed."
The funds in question were seized by the Swiss government from three banks – BSI Bank, Coutts & Co and Falcon Bank – after they were implicated in the laundering 1MDB-linked monies. The banks are appealing the seizures in the Federal Administration Court.
Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said previously that the funds seized have since flowed into the Swiss Federal Treasury because there were no claimants.
The repatriation of the RM430 million illicit funds confiscated by the Swiss financial regulator will remain a live subject in Switzerland, and if Pakatan Harapan takes over Putrajaya in the 14th General Election, expected to be held within 60 days, the new Pakatan Harapan Federal Government will lodge an official claim with the Swiss Government for the RM430 million illicit funds.
In Australia, itself, there is the latest expose that the son of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Alex Turnbull, was a victim of the 1MDB scandal when he was sidelined when he acted as “whistle blower” to expose misconduct in Goldman Sachs in Singapore in its dealings with 1MDB.
Alex Turnbull was working for the global investment bank Goldman Sachs in Singapore in 2012 and 2013 and had raised concerns about a deal that raised around US$6 billion in loans for 1MDB.
The deals brought in US$593 million for Goldman Sachs and were part of a scheme in which, according to the United States Justice Department, Malaysian figures including Prime Minister Najib Razak illegally received billions of dollars from the state fund.
Will the latest 1MDB scandal developments, whether the motion in the Swiss Parliament yesterday or the expose of the Australian Prime Minister’s son, feature in the ASEAN-Australia Summit in Sydney tomorrow and Sunday, or at least in the bilateral meetings between Najib and Malcolm Turnbull.
Or will Najib make a last-minute decision to back out of the ASEAN –Australia Special Summit and send his deputy instead to attend the Sydney Summit?
If so, this will not be the first time, and unlikely to be the last time, of Najib making a last-minute pull-out from an international conference because of the 1MDB scandal.
The first time Najib made a last-minute pull-out of an international conference was in his home turf in Putrajaya, – the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in September 2015, where the Transparency International Chairman Jose Ugaz spoke about Malaysia facing a corruption crisis because of the 1MDB scandal.
Some 30 months have passed since the infamous 16th IACC in Putrajaya, but despite Najib’s undertaking to some 1,000 UMNO divisional leaders and selected representatives of NGOs that the 1MDB scandal would be resolved by the end of 2015, 1MDB scandal has continued to escalate in magnitude in international forums and conferences, dogging Najib’s international itinerary.
May be Najib should ask for a meet-up in Sydney with Australian supermodel, Miranda Kerr,who made international headlines with American actor Leonardo DiCaprio last year in handing over their multi-million US dollar gifts from 1MDB mastermind Jho Low to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The American actor turned over an Oscar won by Marlon Brando to US investigators probing money laundering by 1MDB as well as initiated the return of other, unidentified items that the actor said he accepted as gifts for a charity auction and which originated from the international 1MDB money-laundering scandal.
In its additional kleptocratic litigation filing on 15th June 2017, the US DOJ moved to seize artwork by Picasso and Basquiat that it said had been purchased with laundered Malaysian money and gifted to DiCaprio by associates of Red Granite.
The latest DOJ filing also sought to seize the assets of two other Red Granite produced films which US investigators alleged were financed by money from the 1MDB fund – the 2014 comedy “Dumb and Dumber To” starring Jim Carrey, and 2015 comedy “Daddy’s Home” starring Will Ferrell.
Melinda Kerr on her part, transferred the gifts given to her by Jho Low but which were diverted and misappropriated from 1MDB to DOJ agents from her safe-deposit box in Los Angeles.
Among the presents were an 11.72 carat heart-shaped diamond valued at US$1.29 million and a US$3.8 million 8.88 carat diamond pendant.
The heart-shaped diamond pendant was gifted to Kerr by Jho Low on Valentine’s Day 2014 while the heart-shaped necklace came from New York-based designer Lorraine Schwartz.
The DoJ had filed three civil suits to seize assets, including Kerr’s jewellery, allegedly bought with money siphoned off 1MDB.
Other assets include Low’s US$250 million yacht, real estate in London, New York and Los Angeles, artworks and the gifts to “wife of MO1” – including a US$27.3 million 22-carat pink diamond necklace and 27 different 18-carat gold necklaces and bracelets worth US$1.3 million.
It was reported by the Australia media at the time that in August 2014, Kerr and her Californian-based agent Kristal Fox, enjoyed Low’s hospitality aboard his $250 million superyacht Equanimity while it was bobbing off the idyllic coastline of Corfu.
The billion-ringgit Equanimity superyacht were impounded by the Indonesian authorities early this month to be handed to the US authorities targeting assets bought with money siphoned from 1MDB.
Fresh from splitting with her husband Orlando Bloom, Kerr was spotted in Corfu at the time and even made the local press, but it was her host who is raising eyebrows three years later as the central figure in a corruption scandal that has engulfed Malaysia’s powerful elite.
More than nine months have passed since the US DoJ’s new revelations about Jho Low’s gifts to the “wife of MO1”, diverted and misappropriated from 1MDB funds, such as the US$27.3 million 22-carat pink diamond necklace and 27 different 18-carat gold necklaces and bracelets worth US$1.3 million.
Malaysians and the world have yet to hear whether the “wife of MO1” would emulate Miranda Kerr and Leonardo DiCaprio to hand over to the US DOJ investigators all these multi-million US dollar worth of jewellery gifts from Jho Low as they had been diverted and misappropriated from 1MDB funds.
May be Najib can use his Sydney trip to the ASEAN-Australia Summit to begin to answer the myriad questions about the 1MDB scandal, which he had been dodging in the past three years, although 1MDB scandal continues to dog him wherever he goes, whether nationally or internationally.
But first question first – is Najib flying to Sydney for the ASEAN-Australia Summit?