COMMENT Some people were surprised when I said that the US government’s seizure of assets – condos, mansions, hotels, and art work – all of which were purchased with money stolen from 1MDB and the Malaysian people – was only the beginning.
It’s true. There’s lots more to come.
There will be criminal indictments coming, most likely including Riza Aziz and Jho Low, who both are very closely connected to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
There will be a mention in a future criminal prosecution of an “unindicted co-conspirator,” who now is widely known as ‘Malaysian Official 1’. When he no longer is in office, he will be indicted in the US.
Here are some thoughts about what happens next on the US side. The US government already has seized these assets, or asked other governments, such as Switzerland and the UK, to seize them.
So now Najib’s stepson Riza and his close adviser Jho Low cannot sell anything or try to get their money out of the US or other countries. They have been blocked.
Under US law, the next step is for Riza, Jho Low, and others to try and prove in a court of law that the assets that were seized from them truly were purchased with their own money – and not from funds stolen from 1MDB.
Of course, they cannot prove that. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) filing was meticulous, thorough, and totally professional. The evidence is all there. It even includes the transcripts of wiretapped phone calls of a panicked Jho Low talking to his bankers.
Thanks to the FBI and DOJ, it is so clear. We know where the money came from. It was stolen from the Malaysian people, through 1MDB.
Your money, not ours
As US attorney-general Loretta Lynch and the others pointed out many times, the money was stolen from the people of Malaysia. The assets belong to them.
So the US government will hold all of the seized assets – the real estate, the paintings, the rights to ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, etc – in trust on behalf of the people of Malaysia, from whom the money was stolen.
The assets will not belong to the US government.
(How ironic that the US attorney-general seems to care more about this thievery than the Malaysian attorney-general does…)
In the meantime, the US government will rent out Riza’s condo in New York and his Beverly Hills house. It will take over the management of the hotels in New York and Beverly Hills that were purchased by Jho Low with the stolen money. The US government will collect the profits from all future sales of the DVDs and TV rights of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. The Monet and Van Gogh paintings will go on exhibition somewhere, so everyone can enjoy. And so on.
And all of the profit that is earned will be held in trust by the US government on behalf of the Malaysian people. It is your money, not ours.
What about Rosmah’s son, Riza?
Young Riza will soon be homeless. The US government has seized his homes.
In order to save itself and the films it has in production (including a new film about George Washington, starring Leonardo DiCaprio), I predict that Red Granite Pictures will get rid of Riza.
So Riza will be jobless, too.
When the US government files criminal charges against Riza (and I am sure they will), they will ask the court to seize his passport so he cannot leave the US.
The Malaysian Embassy in Washington may try to defraud the US government and issue a new passport to Riza, with a new number, so he can leave the country. At that point, we will see how efficient the US government is at catching this.
If the Malaysian government asks for the seized assets to be transferred back to them, the US government will do so.
But will Najib do that? No. If Najib asks for the money back, it means that he is admitting that the money was stolen from the development fund that he headed, that the stolen money went to his stepson and his “adviser” Jho Low, and that he has been lying about this to the Malaysian people for years.
So, of course he will never do that.
Asking for the money back will have to wait for a future prime minister.
And why would Najib want to ask “for the money back,” when he and his family and cronies already have it – or have spent it?
An international pariah
From an international viewpoint, this is the end of Najib. He is an international pariah. The world now thinks he is a crook. He is a fraud. The world will want nothing to do with him. He will not be welcomed anywhere. When he speaks to the United Nations General Assembly next fall, there will be only 30 or so people in the room, mostly Malaysians. Other leaders will be embarrassed to be seen with him, to shake his hand, to be photographed with him.
As for Rosmah, her credit at Hermes and Tiffany’s and elsewhere is now cut off. Those luxury stores now know the money was not hers. It was stolen from the Malaysian people. They do not want to be complicit in international money-laundering. They have their own reputations to protect.
That is how the world will react. But how will the Malaysian people react? Will Najib get away with this, back in Malaysia?
I fear that the answer is yes. If so, it means that Malaysia is now in Mugabe-Land.
The inspector-general of police (IGP) says that the US government never asked for cooperation from the Malaysian government in their investigation. Yet both the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the FBI have said that they cooperated with each other in this investigation. The IGP knows the truth, so why did he say otherwise? Why did he lie?
The Malaysian AG says that this is all speculation and innuendo, and that there is no proof of the US government’s charges. Yet the US government has issued a very thorough, professional, and detailed 136-page filing of evidence with the court. It is there for the AG to read. Instead, why did he choose to insult the integrity of the US government? Why did he lie?
As long as Malaysia’s IGP and AG continue to deny the truth in the face of the overwhelming facts, we know where this is going.
How ironic it is, that is the US government – the FBI and the US attorney general – who are doing the job that the IGP and Malaysian AG should be doing.
As US AG Lynch said, this is the Malaysian people’s money. It is not America’s.
We want to give it back to you. – Malaysiakini