Game over for 1MDB and Najib?

By P GUNASEGARAM

QUESTION TIME Out of that RM51 billion of assets that 1MDB has, as much as RM33 billion may never be recovered, allegedly embezzled through a number of crooked deals which no Malaysian authority is investigating at the moment.

And if you include other losses such as mispricing of bonds (RM6 billion), overpayment to advisers (RM2 billion) and overpayment for energy assets (RM3 billion), the figure comes up to an astronomical RM44 billion in losses to the country.

No, these are not crazy figures plucked from the air. Here’s how we derived them.

In July last year, it was reported that then deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that 1MDB’s total debts amounted to RM50 billion. Previous reports cited an asset base of RM51 billion, the higher asset base being due to revaluation of government land acquired cheaply earlier.

That RM50 billion figure remains unchallenged to this day. 1MDB sold its power assets to Chinese interests for just under RM10 billion late last year. The sale has been completed now. Using 1MDB’s own figures, the sale of the power assets, extinguished RM16 billion debt, out of which half was inherited debt, that is debt within the various energy companies.

Take that RM16 billion out of RM50 billion in debt, and the amount remaining is RM34 billion. 1MDB likes to proudly say that it has no more bank debt, but fact is it has tonnes of debt still in the form of bonds – a RM5 billion Islamic term note, RM2.4 billion sukuk, US$3.5 billion (about RM14 billion in two equal bonds, both guaranteed by the International Petroleum Investment Company or IPIC of Abu Dhabi), and US$3 billion (about RM12 billion) in bonds issued with a letter of support from the Malaysian government.

Where has the money taken from these bonds gone? We know that the US$3.5 billion or RM14 billion went, or was supposed to go to IPIC and its subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS. Instead it went into a similar-named company Aabar Investments PJS but incorporated in British Virgin Islands. Why? No one knows. But the money is missing, and neither IPIC/Aabar nor 1MDB know where RM14 billion has gone – or at least that’s what they say.

Next is the US$3 billion or RM12 billion bond. This was supposed to be 1MDB’s 50% contribution into Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Co Ltd or ADMIC, a blank cheque investment with no specified investment target. Aabar is supposed to put an equal US$3 billion into the company but there is no indication that it did.

Here’s what the Goldman Sach’s bond document dated March 8, 2013 said: “…it is anticipated that Aabar will not yet have contributed sufficient capital to meet its obligations under the joint-venture agreement. The issuer has no control over Aabar and there can be no assurance that Aabar will meet its funding obligations.”

It is not clear where that RM12 billion went and it may well be at risk. These are treated in detail in this article.

And then the first RM5 billion Islamic medium term notes in 2009 – the one that set it all off. All of it and more was invested – eventually over RM7 billion – in a dubious venture called 1MDB-PetroSaudi Ltd with Saudi Arabian personalities. It is still not clearly established where this money is.

Now, add that up, and at least RM33 billion (RM14 billion + RM12 billion + RM7 billion) out of these bonds may never be recovered. There may well be more. Besides the energy assets bought from Malaysian companies for which it overpaid by about RM3 billion, what did our self-styled strategic development company invest in? Not much.

Numbers cannot be hidden

1MDB did a dirty sneaky trick when it allowed others to make an estimated RM6 billion by deliberately mispricing some of its key bonds. By flipping these bonds at higher prices once they are traded in the market, those who got first bite made billions. Meantime 1MDB and the nation pays higher interest rates.

And then there was the overpayment for their advisers, Goldman Sachs, by about RM2 billion for the various bonds they arranged – a loss of RM2 billion to the nation.

Add these up (RM3 billion + RM6 billion + RM2 billion), and they amount to RM11 billion. Add this to the RM33 billion in bond proceeds and investments that may never get recovered, and you get that RM44 billion. The final figure may well exceed that!

Those numbers cannot be hidden or hushed up. You can’t hide the movement of such large sums of money across international borders forever. Eventually the international authorities will get to the bottom of it and all will be revealed. The amount of fraud committed will become obvious and it will become impossible to deny it.

All the land that 1MDB has now is not worth that much – it’s not enough to cover the losses. The black hole that is 1MDB is already very obvious and soon more and more losses will crystallise while investigators across the globe tighten their noose on the miscreants – it’s a matter of time before they are nailed.

That means game over for 1MDB with losses of at least RM44 billion or more, and by extension for Najib Razak, the prime minister and 1MDB sponsor whose reign at the top continues to prolong the agony and prevent investigation to bring this to closure, among the saddest, longest chapters of our country’s history. – Malaysiakini


P GUNASEGARAM has no doubts that history will judge the perpetrators of the 1MDB fiasco, the worst ever financial scandal in Malaysia and probably the world, harshly. For Malaysia’s sake, he hopes they will be brought to account in their own country well within their lifetimes.

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