US Federal Grand Jury shocker for embattled Prime Ministeralmost 3 years ago
Malaysian politics would never be the same again after the seizure of ill-gotten assets salted away overseas by those in the corridors of power.
NEWS ANALYSIS The rumours had been floating around for quite some time that the film, The Wolf of Wall Street, was financed by funds that originated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), owned by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and touted as a strategic investment and development arm. Riza Aziz, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's stepson and his wife Rosmah Mansor's son, reportedly financed the film.
Briefly, other media reports had Riza and his friend Jho Low from Penang snapping up multimillion dollar properties in the US and in the case of the latter, living a flamboyant lifestyle partying with the likes of celebrity Paris Hilton.
Jho Low, who holds two US passports, seemed to have smelled a rat in recent months and fled from his Hong Kong base to Taiwan from where, it's said, he can't be extradited to the US. Riza may be living in the US and, unlike Jho Low, may not be a US citizen.
The New York Times (NYT) reported on Monday that a US Federal Grand Jury was examining allegations of corruption involving the Prime Minister and people linked to him on the matter.
The Inquiry would be run by a unit of the Justice Department that investigates international corruption under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative launched by the US Attorney General in 2010 under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) 1997. It relies on the use of US civil forfeiture actions to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption that pass through the US.
One Oxford definition of kleptocrat is "A ruler who uses his power to steal his country's resources". The online dictionary.com defines a kleptocrat as "a government official who is a thief or exploiter".
Leslie Caldwell, the Assistant Attorney-General who heads the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Criminal Division Team of nearly 600 lawyers, has explained in the media on why the DOJ was involved in fighting kleptocrats. "More simply, it simply means taking the monies and assets stolen by foreign despots and returning them to the people harmed. The initiative protects the integrity of the US financial system from use by corrupt officials, and denies corrupt officials the ability to enjoy luxuries purchased in the US at the expense of the populations they purport to serve."
Deputy Inspector General of Police Noor Rashid Ibrahim has thrown cold water on the veracity of the NYT report on the grounds that the Malaysian police had not been informed, "as it would be informed in such cases".
Generally, the US would not inform foreign authorities especially the Malaysian police in this case, if there's a US Federal Grand Jury investigation. The police appear to be more interested in bracing themselves for the possibility that Najib may be placed on Interpol's Red List or Notice. In that case, Najib himself would know about it through the closure of his bank accounts in 188 member nations including China, Iran, Libya and Pakistan.
It remains to be seen whether the relevant authorities in Malaysia would respond with at least a statement on the US Federal Grand Jury probe of the Prime Minister.
Besides Najib himself, the others who should be responding include The Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Wisma Putra and the Attorney General's Chambers. So far, there has not been even a peep out of even the Ministers who take to their blogs almost on a daily basis to defend Najib. Multimedia and Communication Minister Salleh Said Keruak and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan, both from Sabah, in particular stand out. Rahman Dahlan is also the ruling Barisan Nasional's (BN) Strategic Communication Director.