U.S. Investigating Malaysia’s 'Wolf of Wall Street' Linked $3.5bn Corruption Scandal

U.S. Investigating Malaysia’s 'Wolf of Wall Street' Linked $3.5bn Corruption Scandal
華爾街狼人劇照。photo credit: AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Mary Cybulski/達志影像

What you need to know

Malaysian prime minister urges action on 1MDB scandal now that the U.S. Justice Department is involved.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has been urged to "come clean" on 1MDB following the announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that they had filed two lawsuits to seize assets linked to 1MDB.

"The prime minister must, once and for all, come clean on the matter which can no longer be swept under the carpet.

"Neither can the prime minister pretend that this latest action is not bringing shame and scandal to the country," Selangor Chief Minister Azmin Ali said in a statement today.

The DOJ had earlier filed a civil forfeiture suit in Los Angeles seeking to seize properties worth about US$1 billion (RM4 billion) linked to 1MDB, as part of the US$3.5 billion misappropriated from the state fund.

The assets involved include penthouses, mansions, artwork, a private jet and proceeds from the "Wolf of Wall Street" movie.

Azmin pointed out that the DOJ had said that officials treated 1MDB like "a personal bank account" and "stole billions of dollars from the people of Malaysia."

"At last, after all these months of trying to whitewash the mother of all financial scandals in Malaysia, the truth concerning 1MDB has finally surfaced confirming beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was indeed a conspiracy to defraud and launder billions of the taxpayers’ money committed by those closely connected with those occupying the highest rungs of public office," he said.

While he conceded that the lawsuits did not name Najib, it did specifically name his stepson Riza Aziz, family friend and businessman Jho Low as well as two Abu Dhabi government officials.

Azmin added that he had always maintained that Najib's decision last year to sack then Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, replace then attorney-general Gani Patail as well as displace top Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers involved in the 1MDB investigation "strongly suggested" a conspiracy to cover up the scandal.

"In light of the latest development, the prime minister can no longer hide behind a wall of silence and must instead address the nation on this matter," he said.

'Rakyat are watching'

In a separate statement, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man also voiced a similar sentiment, questioning whether Najib, who is also the finance minister, will continue to keep his silence.

Tuan Ibrahim also wondered how the DOJ successfully discovered evidence of wrongdoing by a Malaysia-based company whereas Malaysian authorities had failed to do so.

"What is the status of the inspector-general of police's (IGP) probe into 1MDB? Will the IGP cooperate with the DOJ to get the evidence that he failed to discover in his investigations into 1MDB?

"What about the auditor-general? Will he be able to now complete his audit report, which is under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), with these new information?

"And what about the attorney-general and MACC after this? Do they still stand by what they said earlier?

"What about the Bank Negara Malaysia governor Muhammad Ibrahim who had closed the 1MDB case? With this new information, will the case be reopened?" Tuan Ibrahim questioned in his statement today.

He said the rakyat are watching the actions of these institutions now, to see whether they are working for the people or certain individuals only.

1MDB chief Arul Kanda Kandasamy should also think on what's best for himself and the country for his next steps, Tuan Ibrahim advised.

Meanwhile, he said, PAS urges for a Royal Commission Inquiry (RCI) consisting of ulama who are experts on economy and Islamic finance to be formed to investigate the 1MDB scandal.

The investigation, he explained, should focus on two aspects.

First, Tuan Ibrahim said, would be the mismanagement of investments and finances. He added that while this is normal issue in conventional economy, there is a different punishment in Islamic finance.

Secondly, he said, is the alleged misappropriation of funds, which involved the illegal transfer of funds without using the proper channels.

"Both of this should be investigated by a RCI to resolve this case, which has been going on for years," he said.

The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The piece was first published on Malaysiakini.

(Launched on November 20th, 1999, Malaysiakini.com offers daily news and views in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.)

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole