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Malaysian PM Najib On Way Out, Report Says

Malaysian PM Najib On Way Out, Report Says
Love birds on the wing?
Premier said to be negotiating for safe passage and stolen loot
The Malaysian
Anti-Corruption Commission has completed its probe into the financial
affairs of Prime Minister Najib Razak and passed 37 charges to the
attorney general for prosecution, according to an explosive report by
the London-based Sarawak Report. The Commission’s lead investigator in
the case was earlier murdered.
The news blog,
edited and written by Clare Rewcastle Brown, said that Najib is trying
to negotiate his departure from office with full immunity and as much as
RM4 billion (US$907.3 million) in stolen loot after the charges were
widely circulated among top United Malays National Organization cadres.
Two sources in Kuala Lumpur independently confirmed the story to Asia
Sentinel, although a third said it had been around for some time and
that there has been no movement, suggesting it might be at least part
wishful thinking. Others with connections to the top of UMNO say they
don’t think Najib is going anywhere anytime soon.
However, Sarawak
Report said, “Behind a facade of UMNO unity and relentless PR about the
‘crisis being over,’stealthy talks were carried out at the highest
levels in a series of locations over the New Year holiday break.”
Veteran UMNO
politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is said to be brokering the
negotiations because Najib trusts him to swing immunity for him, Asia
Sentinel was told separately. 
“Appearances are
being maintained,” an insider told SR, “there have been the usual
lavish events and appearances and of course Rosmah [Najib’s wife] is
still determined not to let go, but there have been negotiations in
Tokyo and Dubai.  Najib knows the game is up, but he does not appreciate
the reality of his situation.  He is a dead duck and yet he is trying
to negotiate a safe exit along with a guarantee of all the stolen
money!  The others will not agree.”
Another problem is that
former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad wants Najib and his wife in
prison. For another, three murders have revolved around cases involving
Najib.  The first is the killing by two of his bodyguards of the
Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006.
Altantuya was at the heart of a 137 million euro scandal connected with
the purchase of French submarines when Najib was defense minister.  The
second involved the 2013 murder of Hussain Ahmad Najadi, the founder of
AMBank, the home of Najib’s accounts, who according to Najadi’s son was
complaining about financial misdoings on the part of both Najib and
UMNO.  The third was the macabre murder of Anthony Kevin Morais, the
lead prosecutor for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s case
against Najib.  There will be considerable public outrage if Najib and
Rosmah are allowed to go without punishment,
Rotten at the core 
The charges are
at the heart of the notorious 1Malaysia Development Bhd. fund affair, in
which billions of US dollars have disappeared into accounts held by
Taek Jho Low, the youthful financier who helped Najib – 1MDB’s chief
economic advisor – set up the fund in 2009. They also revolve around a
mysterious US$681 million payment into Najib’s personal account at
AMBank in 2013 and its subsequent withdrawal. 
Whether Attorney
General Mohamed Apandi Ali acts on the charges remains to be seen. He
is an UMNO loyalist who was appointed to the job after Najib fired his
predecessor, Abdul Gani Patail, last year for bringing forward charges
based on the theft of millions from Malaysia’s pension fund Kumpulan
Wang Persaraan or KWAP into Najib’s personal account. 
“Apandi is aware
that this evidence has now been widely distributed and is known to all
the top brass in UMNO, making a protracted cover-up extremely hard to
achieve,” Rewcastle Brown wrote. 
Prosecutor’s role
 
The charges are
said to have been prepared by Morais, whose body was put into a
cement-filled oil drum in November and dumped into a river after his car
was forced off the road and he was kidnapped. Attorney General’s office
officials denied Morais had any role in the investigation. However,
Morais, widely believed to be the original leaker to the Sarawak Report
and other publications, put much of the information on a USB drive and
sent it to his brother in Atlanta, Georgia and other trusted confidants.
Apandi and
Special Branch, the intelligence unit of the police – whose deputy chief
was fired last year at the same time Ghani Patail was cashiered — have
been attempting to get the documents back, according to the story. 
Morais, in an
email to Sarawak Report, said “The police continue to be rather
aggressive in trying to uncover the sources of the leaks. And not
actually trying to nab the lunatic on top of the pyramid, running this
country to the ground just so his arse is saved… and I’m not sure if
we’ll be able to stop this lunacy.”
The information
is said to include copies of the bank statements showing how RM42
million, which was passed into one of Najib Razak’s personal accounts
from 1MDB, under the auspices of “Corporate and Social Responsibility”
payments, was actually spent by the Prime Minister.
The Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal published details from
the 1MDB investigation that showed the exact trail of the money: an
original RM4 billion had been borrowed from the KWAP public pension fund
by a subsidiary of 1MDB named SRC International Sdn Bhd. Between
December 2014 and February 2015 a total of RM42 million was siphoned out
of SRC through two intermediary companies controlled by 1MDB executive
Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil (Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd) and Datuk Shamsul
Anwar Sulaiman (Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd).  
Shamsul has been arrested and interviewed by investigators. Nik Kamil has fled to Jakarta.
Shopping spree? 
Najib has said
that none of this public money was spent on personal things.  However,
those who have seen the relevant bank statements told Sarawak Report
that there were several expensive shopping items recorded, many bought
on foreign trips.
“Actually, the spending …was
rather mundane,” Morais said in an email to Rewcastle Brown, “Credit
card bills, shopping, suppliers to the last elections that had not
gotten paid because BNM had frozen the accounts of other proxy
companies, that sort of stuff.”
Massive transactions 
While the SRC
scandal is localized and presumably containable, the other graft
allegations involve massive dollar currency transactions and implicate
foreign banks, which the FBI and other international regulators are now
publicly investigating.
On top of those 37 charges relating to SRC International there remains the issue of the US$681 million (RMB2.6 billion at  current
exchange rates) paid from a number of mysterious off-shore entities
into Najib’s AmBank account. According to the Sarawak Report and the
Wall Street Journal, two of those payments were made from a BVI entity
named Tanore Finance Corporation just before the 2013 general election.
The money came into Najib’s AmBank account via the Abu Dhabi Aabar fund’s Falcon Bank, just
days after Goldman Sachs had negotiated a US$3 billion bond issue in
order to fund a supposed strategic partnership between 1MDB and Aabar.
Much of the money from the series of bond deals has gone missing and the
Chairman of Aabar was sacked shortly after the 1MDB scandal broke last year.
“What is now
widely known in UMNO’s upper circles, thanks to further investigations
by Malaysian task forces,” Rewcastle Brown wrote, “is that this RM2.6
billion transaction in March 2013 was just a portion of the money which
went into Najib’s same AmBank account during the period after 2011.
There were at
least two further sets of payments again worth billions of ringgit. Most
of this money, which Najib now claims was supposed to help UMNO win the
2013 general elections, was never spent.  The majority was sent back to
into the Prime Minister’s private account in Singapore straight after
the election was over and the KL account was closed.
Lots of stories 
Najib and his
allies have told a variety of different stories about the source of the
money being an anonymous Middle Eastern sheikh who applauded Malaysia’s
stance against the terrorist organization Islamic State, or destined for
UMNO for the 2013 election.
However, Sarawak
Report said, “The money plainly ended up in Najib’s private foreign
bank accounts, where much of it remains frozen in Singapore.”
Top UMNO cadres have been given all the details, according to the report, and are furious. 
“He didn’t just take the famous RM2.6 billion, it was RM4 billion and more,” one UMNO official told Sarawak Report.
Succession politics 
There are other
factors prolonging Najib’s stay in office.  There is infighting over who
will succeed him if UMNO’s top brass have agreed that he must go. Ahmad
Zahid Hamidi, the deputy prime minister appointed last year to replace
the fired Muhyiddin Yassin, has made clear that he aims to take over. 
However, Zahid is regarded as a loose cannon by many and a Najib
loyalist.
The UMNO
constitution also demands that it is the party that should choose its
leaders, which puts Muhyiddin Yassin in line for the succession, not
Zahid.  Thus the arguments are not about whether Najib should go, but
over who should succeed him and on what terms Najib should leave.
“The other major
sticking point delaying Najib’s departure is the thorny issue of his
criminal actions,” the story continued. “The Prime Minister knows the
game is up, say insiders. With the economy in free fall and the country
enmeshed in top-down corruption, he sees little glory either to be
gained from hanging out for a further election win.”
Money in
Rosmah’s own frozen accounts in KL is also in the order of hundreds of
unexplained millions, with plenty of stories in the wings relating to
crony contracts and the exploitation of public funds.
Where would he go? 
The present
deadlock has been further strengthened by the fact that Najib appears to
have encountered a shortage of willing foreign bolt holes.  Turkey has
rejected his asylum request and various Middle Eastern countries have
simply failed to reply to his entreaties.
In the meantime,
Najib is said to be falling prey to every political and financial
demand. The wounded PM can’t say no to anybody as he attempts to shore
up his support.
“Everyone is
going for bribes and contracts and then when that is not enough they
come back for more bribes,” one onlooker said. “They are feeding on the
carcass of Malaysia’s blighted economy, while Najib tries to stay in
office that little bit longer.”
It is a given of
politics that once a Prime Minister starts to open even the most
discreet exit negotiations there can really be no going back. But how
this fraught situation will be ultimately resolved and what will happen
to Najib when the dam bursts is still a guessing game.