Malaysia Dateline

Steven Thiru

Be serious, Bar urges Putrajaya over US’s 1MDB hunt

The Malaysian Bar today urged the government not to dismiss the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) action in seeking the forfeiture of some US$1 billion in assets linked to 1MDB.

“The substance, depth and reach of the allegations are compelling, and should not be ignored,” said Bar president Steven Thiru referring to referring to documents showing US authorities including the FBI’s discovery that some U$3.5 billion worth of 1MDB assets had been siphoned off by high-ranking individuals.

He said the Public Accounts Committee’s refusal to reopen investigations into 1MDB based on the latest damning revelations by DoJ was “deeply disconcerting”.

“These allegations must not be ignored or permitted to be swept under the carpet, as that would only fuel the already existing perception of a cover-up,” said Thiru.

Several Umno leaders’ had been insisting that the DoJ suit was civil and not criminal in nature.

But Thiru said while its civil nature might be true, the DoJ suit to freeze the assets was only the first step before criminal charges are brought.

“Thus, upon forfeiture of the assets, it is likely that there would be criminal proceedings to prosecute those responsible for the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds and the laundering of those funds in the United States and elsewhere,” he said, adding that Malaysian law too has similar provisions to deal with money laundering.

“The laws in Malaysia also allow for criminal proceedings against individuals for alleged money laundering activities, even if those activities occur outside Malaysia.”

On July 20, US investigators revealed that some US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, and named top Malaysian officials involved in the illegal syphoning of money out of the state fund.

The document named the stepson of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Riza Aziz, for using more than RM250 million of 1MDB funds to finance the production of the movie “Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo diCaprio.

Najib himself was not named, although the document merely cited “Malaysian Official 1”, in what some said reflected the cordial relationship between Najib and the Obama administration.

Thiru took to task those who dismiss the DoJ documents and who claim that 1MDB’s losses are actually “debts”.

“This is a perverse and unsustainable position, given that the PAC report reportedly named members of 1MDB’s senior management that it said should face a criminal investigation,” he said.

“The truth must be revealed and justice must be done.”