COMMENT Over the past few days the world press has been filled with two different – and very damaging – stories about Malaysia. The first concerned attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali’s decision to close the case on the mysterious RM2.6 billion that was deposited in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts.
I say “mysterious”, because it still has never been explained who gave the money to Najib, what it was for, what they expected in return for such a huge sum, and why – if it was a “gift” to Najib and the nation – most of it was later transferred back overseas, to an unknown destination and for an unknown purpose.
Where is the money today, and who controls it? If the money really was for Umno or for combating IS influence in Malaysia, then it should still be in Malaysia. But it is not.
If, as others have suggested, it was for the general elections and to counter the influence of PAS because of its alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, then why are Najib and Umno cosying up to PAS today?
Apandi also made and announced another decision, which flies directly in the face of Malaysia’s international responsibility to combat money laundering, wire fraud, and corruption.
Financial and law enforcement authorities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland are still investigating various aspects of the many scandals surrounding Najib – his bank accounts, purchases of US real estate by Najib family members, 1MDB’s financial transfers, and the Scorpene submarine sales.
But with Apandi’s announcement, he was apparently closing the door to mutual legal assistance or cooperation with foreign governments.
Taken aback by Apandi’s actions, the Swiss authorities took the unusual step of issuing a public statement about the status of their investigation, and they appealed for cooperation from Malaysia. That is the second big story, which hit the headlines around the world, from Sydney to New York to London.
The Swiss no doubt did this for a number of reasons. Their press statement makes it very clear that they have uncovered some real wrongdoing connected to 1MDB and certain public officials and executives in Malaysia and abroad.
Second, Apandi reportedly had promised the Swiss legal cooperation when he met with them just last September. So the Swiss clearly were surprised when they read in the newspapers that Apandi had absolved Najib of any wrongdoing, suggesting that he would not cooperate with any international investigations.
Maybe Apandi does not take his international obligations to combat money laundering and corruption seriously, but today the Swiss certainly do.
What did Apandi tell Swiss AG?
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi now has said that the Swiss attorney-general should not have “gone public” with his information on 1MDB. He said that information like that should be conveyed through official government channels.
For myself, I think that the Swiss authorities took the only logical course of action. If they had sent their message through diplomatic channels, it never would have seen the light of day. Apandi and the Najib government would have buried it. So the only way to put pressure on the Malaysian government to cooperate was to “go public”.
As a result of the intense public criticism of Apandi’s actions, he now has agreed to cooperate with the Swiss on 1MDB. Hopefully, he will also agree to extend cooperation to the other foreign governments that are investigating 1MDB and Najib.
But the reality is, that will never happen, whether under Apandi or his reported successor, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah. That’s because the goal of both men is not to seek justice. Their goal is simple – they are there to protect Najib.
There have been many articles in the foreign press over the past few days, and there are some interesting “tidbits” here and there. To me, the most intriguing was in a Reuters report. It said:
“Sources familiar with the September discussion between the two law enforcement officials said the Malaysian official strongly urged (Swiss attorney-general Michael) Lauber to abandon his 1MDB-related investigation.”
In short, when Apandi met with his Swiss counterpart last September, he allegedly asked him to “abandon”, or stop the investigation.
The goal of any attorney-general should be to seek justice. But for Apandi, it was “stop your investigation”.
There can be no better indication of Apandi’s refusal to seek the truth and to seek justice – and his subservience to Najib – than his reported comment to his Swiss counterpart.
It is no wonder that the Malaysian people have reacted with such contempt for his actions. – Malaysiakini
JOHN MALOTT is a former US ambassador to Malaysia.