A MEMBER of Malaysia’s opposition has urged Prime Minister Najib Razak use a démarche to protest against the US chief prosecutor’s “disparaging” remarks about the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentarian Tony Pua’s call came after US attorney-general Jeff Sessions said the alleged corruption scandal involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was “kleptocracy at its worst”.
“Najib must summon the US ambassador and file an official protest to his golf buddy, US President Donald Trump, against Sessions for disparaging and destroying Malaysia’s international reputation,” Pua said in a statement, as quoted by MalaysiaKini.
“In fact, he should immediately file an official complaint to Trump and demand an apology from the US government.”
Sessions said on Monday the 1MDB-linked assets accounted for nearly half of some US$3.5 billion in total proceeds seized or restrained by the Department of Justice, tied to money-laundering offences.
“This is kleptocracy at its worst,” Sessions said at a global forum on asset recovery in Washington according to a transcript of his speech posted on the DoJ website, referring to the Malaysian case.
“Today, the US Department of Justice is working to provide justice to the victims of this alleged scheme,” he said.
The DoJ in June filed several lawsuits to seize more than US$1.7 billion in assets believed to have been stolen from 1MDB, a sovereign fund set up by Najib.
“What Sessions said is perhaps shocking to the world, yet I don’t believe the ruling party – Umno especially – is shocked by it at all,” Fahmi Fadzil, communications director of the People’s Justice Party told the Asian Correspondent.
“The lack of action against those purported to have syphoned money out of 1MDB is abhorrent and is symptomatic of the systemic rot in UMNO-BN.”
Fahmi added Malaysians are aware of Session’s statement and are paying attention to Najib’s lack of action.
“I believe that many are just waiting for the elections to arrive to make known their feelings on 1MDB.”
Sessions said “allegedly corrupt officials” in 1MDB had reportedly spent US$200 million on real estate in Southern California and New York, US$130 million on artwork, invested US$100 million in an American music label and US$265 million on a yacht.
“In total, 1MDB officials allegedly laundered more than US$4.5 billion in funds through a complex web of opaque transactions and fraudulent shell companies with bank accounts in countries ranging from Switzerland and Singapore to Luxembourg and the United States,” Sessions said.
He did not identify any of the officials he thought were corrupt.
Officials at 1MDB did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Sessions said the DoJ’s anti-kleptocracy initiative had returned at least US$254 million in corruption proceeds to the people of Italy, Kazakhstan and Peru, and millions more to the people of Nicaragua, South Korea and Taiwan, since 2004.
Najib chaired the 1MDB’s advisory board until last year. The fund is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.
Will UMNO General Assembly ignore three years in a row what the US Attorney-General Sessions described yesterday as the world’s “kleptocracy at its worst” – the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB money-laundering scandal? https://t.co/XdKwsFj0am
— Lim Kit Siang (@limkitsiang) December 5, 2017
The US lawsuits have alleged that US$681 million of the misappropriated funds from 1MDB was transferred to the account of “Malaysian Official 1”, which US and Malaysian sources have previously identified as Najib.
Najib, who faces a general election next year, has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared of any offence by Malaysia’s attorney-general.
Trump welcomed Najib at the White House in September, praising Malaysia’s investments in the US while avoiding any talk of the DoJ’s investigation into the scandal.
***Additional reporting by Reuters