Those close to Najib have been putting it about that matters are going well for the former Prime Minister, who apparently reckons he will make it back into office at the next election as he thinks the prosecution case against him is collapsing.
Since his entire defence is based on the claim he listened to the wrong advisors, he ought to stop doing it. As the main 1MDB trial gets underway his position has looked bleaker with every hour of devastating testimony from those closest to events – the best option for him right now is a plea bargain for less time in jail.
His method of operating through his proxy Jho Low, who in turn was adept at pushing money the way of key functionaries and then refusing to accept it back, is being laid bare as one after another the inner circle around 1MDB give their evidence to the court.
Najib was the one who held all the power and every key office relating to this bloated fund and he took added care to make sure only he could call the shots when it came to what happened to the money. All his subordinates meanwhile were held at arms length from the ‘Big Boss’ as he was known, forced to pass their questions and concerns through his youthful proxy Jho Low who relayed indirect instructions in return.
But such crass subterfuge can fool nobody. Every spending decision, every refusal to accept oversight and scrutiny was signed off and authorised by him alone. Jho was the monkey, Najib the organ grinder – the man in charge who resisted every attempt to hold 1MDB to account despite the growing chorus of national and international concern.
He can choose to team up with every remaining discredited rabble-rouser in Malaysia and champion as much bigotry and division as he likes, but it is not going to release him from the logic of the law in this case.
However, it is not just Najib who is being left painfully exposed by the latest revelations. The one connected bank to have escaped any censure or punishment over 1MDB so far is one of most culpable as the ongoing testimony by former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Halmi has amply confirmed.
The CEO himself and board of 1MDB were ‘sheilded’ from any information about the recipients of the initial bonds issued on its behalf by AmBank, who handled the entire affair, says Shahrol Halmi. This despite wide outcry over the fact that the unjustifiably high rates of interest had already made the bonds hot property and yet they were issued to these mystery buyers at a massive 10% discount by the bank.
Halmi has now acknowledged that because of the discounts and amazingly high interest fees of some RM200m to the bank the fund lost a staggering RM600 million receiving only RM4.4 billion out of the RM5 billion issue. He must go down as one of the most naïve and ineffective CEOs in corporate history (which was obviously why he was hired) but he has explained he had his instructions, direct from the ‘Big Boss’ this time, to go ahead with the deal, despite the bonds having been cancelled by the original Terengganu Board (TIA).
Shahrol Halmi says he only found out from post-election investigations that the AmBank subsidiary AmInvest had put all the original bond issue through just two private companies controlled by a highly Politically Exposed Person, namely Jho Low the man widely recognised as the official advisor to the fund and a close associate of the man in charge, Najib Razak.
It has separately emerged that the bank then kindly handled all the secondary sales of the bonds as well as Jho flipped them back from those companies and onto the open market at their actual value – creaming off those hundreds of millions lost to the fund by the original under-sell.
This was a straight theft of massive amounts of money by the politically connected decision makers behind the fund and Ambank was privy to every step of the process. Overseeing the bond issue was a string of senior banking staff seconded to the KL bank from its largest single shareholder, the major Australian bank ANZ.
AmBank’s Chief Financial Officer at the time, one Mandy Simpson was recently prevented from taking up a senior role in New Zealand’s banking oversight following scrutiny of her credentials and there can be little doubting one of the reasons why.
There were a whole slew of other ANZ banking officers who originated and later returned to their positions in Sydney, whose role at AmBank was to monitor just such transactions and they could not have failed – unless blindfolded, bound and gagged – to have noted the massive transactions of cash to just two registered companies whose beneficial ownership ought certainly have been declared to the bank at the time of the bond issues to them.
Sarawak Report has called out ANZ for years over this matter and indeed other antics involving its KL subsidiary relating to 1MDB, only to be met with deafening silence from the Australian regulators and government.
It is time the Malaysian public found out just how much in bonuses was received by these senior AmBank staff members (after all Mandy Smith/Rutherford is now known to be a racehorse owner) and indeed their superiors over in Australia out of the bond issue thanks to the outrageously high commission charged by the bank for these outstandingly simple two transactions – money that was filched from the taxpayer thanks to turning a deliberate blind eye to a further massive theft perpetrated by the proxy to the prime minister in charge of the fund itself.
This is no way for the Australian money markets to make their profits and the failure of the ASIC regulator to transparently investigate the matter and hold ANZ to account has exposed complicity at the highest levels in that country.
Goldman Sachs is facing a major indictment in the United States and criminal charges against 17 personnel issued by Malaysia for actions that are little different to those AmBank are now exposed over, despite the ‘oversight’ of these senior ANZ staff.
ANZ deserves the same scrutiny, the same investigation and the same outcome for the same disgraceful and greedy conduct. And since that is likely to be exactly what will eventually have to happen, earlier action by the Australian regulators would have saved that country much of the inevitable shame this episode will bring upon them.