Malaysia Dateline

Datuk Seri Mohamad Najib Razak

1MDB not fit to sponsor free haj trips, says Pua

DAP today hit out at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for trying to distract the public’s attention away from allegations of money laundering and high-level corruption involving his brainchild 1MDB, by sponsoring Muslims to perform the haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

DAP’s publicity secretary Tony Pua said he would not have found anything wrong with such gestures from the state company, had it not been mired in debt and questionable transactions.

“If 1MDB had made real profits and subsequently allocated part of these profits to charitable causes, then the efforts by the state-owned company should certainly be applauded,” said the DAP MP who is also a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which investigated 1MDB.

“However, 1MDB which had funded itself entirely by debt by borrowing at its peak, RM55 billion never made a sen of cash profits in its entire 6 years of existence.”

Pua was commenting on 1MDB’s announcement that it was setting aside more than RM10 million to sponsor 1,100 Muslims, who included imams, mosque committee members and village heads, to perform the annual pilgrimage this year.

Last week, the US Department of Justice revealed that some US$3 billion from 1MDB had been siphoned off, and was seeking to seize assets worth RM1 billion, in what is seen as the biggest kleptocracy case in the US.

US prosecutors in submitting its application to seize the assets also named Riza Aziz, stepson of Najib, accusing him of using some RM256 million from illegally obtained 1MDB funds to finance the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

It also alleged that a wire transfer of US$11 million was made to businessman Low Taek Jho to pay off his gambling debts with a casino in Las Vegas.

Pua said Najib should “stop pulling the wool over the people’s eyes” with social welfare programmes using taxpayers’ money.

“It is of the greatest irony that Najib boasted of 1MDB’s RM10.4 million contribution to the 1,100 pilgrims – who were supposed to be funded by Tabung Haji, when Tabung Haji has been ripped off of more than RM184 million from the above transaction alone,” said Pua, referring to the haj fund’s purchase of land from 1MDB at RM2,774 per square foot in 2015, when the state company had originally bought it from the government at a mere RM64 per square foot.

Najib yesterday praised 1MDB Foundation for sponsoring the pilgrims.

This afternoon, Tabung Haji refused a question from the media whether the sponsored pilgrims were allowed to jump queue enabling them to perform the pilgrimage this year.

“There is no question of jumping queue or not. What is important is the pilgrims were able to perform haj and they are happy,” said Tabung Haji CEO Datuk Johan Abdullah.

The haj fund practises a strict queue system among its more than two million depositors before they are selected to perform the haj, due to the limit on the number of Malaysian pilgrims set by the Saudi government.

It was reported last year that some depositors had to wait for more than ten years before they got their turn to perform haj.

Meanwhile, speaking at the launching of TH Foundation in Petaling Jaya today, Najib said the haj fund had made a good investment in its purchase of land from 1MDB.

He said the land is now worth an additional RM400 per square foot, prompting Johan to announce later that Tabung Haji would not sell back the land.