1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal
The 1Malaysia Development Berhad Scandal is an ongoing political scandal occurring in Malaysia. In 2015, former Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was accused of channelling over RM 2.67 billion (nearly USD 700 million) from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-run strategic development company, to his personal bank accounts. The event triggered widespread criticisms among Malaysians, with many calling for Najib Razak's resignation – including Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who has served as the fourth and now the seventh Prime Minister. Political leader Anwar Ibrahim has openly questioned the credentials of 1MDB. He told Parliament that according to the records held by the companies commission, the company "has no business address and no appointed auditor." According to its publicly filed accounts, 1MDB has nearly RM 42 billion (USD 11.73 billion) in debt. Some of this debt resulted from a $3 billion state-guaranteed 2013 bond issue led by Goldman Sachs, who is believed to have made as much as $300 million in fees from that deal alone, although it disputes this figure. Conference of Rulers in Malaysia has called for the investigations by the government to be completed as soon as possible, saying that the issue is causing a crisis of confidence in Malaysia.
After the 14th general election, the newly elected Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said there was enough evidence to reopen a probe on the 1MDB scandal. Having filed complaints alleging that more than USD 4.5 billion was diverted from 1MDB and laundered through a web of shell companies and bank accounts located in the United States and elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would continue to pursue investigations into 1MDB and looked forward to working with Malaysian law enforcement authorities. On 18 May 2018, Malaysian police seized a huge haul of designer handbags, many of them stuffed with cash and jewelry, in searches of homes and offices linked to Najib Razak, who has been barred from leaving the country in the wake of the election amid allegations he oversaw the looting of billions from 1MDB.
- 1 Email and newspaper exposes
- 2 Malaysian investigations and actions
- 2.1 Change of auditors and transparency
- 2.2 Debts and rating downgrade
- 2.3 Donation explanation from government
- 2.4 Bank Negara actions
- 2.5 Police reports
- 2.6 Local Lawsuits
- 2.7 Government actions
- 2.8 Ramifications and debt restructuring default
- 2.9 Renewed investigations after 14th general election
- 3 Investigations by foreign law enforcement agencies
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Email and newspaper exposes
It was reported by news portal Sarawak Report and British newspaper The Sunday Times using leaked email correspondences that Penang-based financier Jho Low, who has ties with Najib's stepson siphoned out US$700 million from a joint venture deal between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International through Good Star Ltd. An email revealed that Jho Low had the loan approval from Prime Minister Najib for US$1 billion without getting any approval from Bank Negara. Sarawak Report showed minutes of a meeting at 1MDB that CEO Arul Kanda gave out false bank statements pertaining to its subsidiary's accounts at the Singapore branch of BSI Bank. Arul Kanda denied the allegation that he gave false bank statements to Bank Negara.
It was claimed through a report by the Wall Street Journal that 1MDB made overpriced purchases of power assets in Malaysia through Genting Group in 2012. Genting then allegedly donated this money to a foundation controlled by Najib Razak, who used these funds for election campaign purposes during the 2013 general elections. According to a news report quoting 1MDB, the company denied that it overpaid for its energy assets. 1MDB was quoted as saying that their energy acquisitions were made only when the company was convinced of its long-term value.
Further allegations were made by the Wall Street Journal that US$700 million were transferred from 1MDB and deposited in AmBank and Affin Bank accounts under Najib Razak's name. A task force that was tasked to investigate these claims have frozen 6 bank accounts linked to Najib and 1MDB. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) subsequently, in August 2015, cleared 1MDB of this allegation. MACC issued a statement saying, among others, "Results of the investigation have found that the RM2.6bil which was allegedly transferred into the account belonging to Najib Razak came from the contribution of donors, and not from 1MDB".
According to highly placed sources, three of the bank accounts that have been frozen belong to Najib Razak. The Wall Street Journal revealed the bank account details online to rebut denials by Najib Razak and his supporters. Singapore police have frozen two Singapore bank accounts in connection with their own investigation into the alleged financial mismanagement at 1MDB, after reports stated that US$700 million worth of deposits was moved through Falcon Bank in Singapore into Najib Razak's personal accounts in Malaysia. However, 1MDB denied having any knowledge of their accounts being frozen, and that they have not been contacted by any of the foreign investigating authorities.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that 1MDB transferred around $850 million via three transactions in 2014 to a British Virgin Islands-registered company with a name that was disguised that it was controlled by IPIC, according to wire transfer documents.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) released a report stating that 1MDB failed to pay a United Arab Emirates state investment vehicle International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) US$1.4 billion. The money was owed to IPIC after it had guaranteed a US$3.5 billion bond issued by 1MDB to fund its purchase of power plant assets back in 2012. The WSJ released another report saying that a further US$993 million was missing that 1MDB was supposed to pay IPIC. 1MDB responded to the WSJ report, saying that the company continues to enjoy a strong business relationship IPIC as proven by the execution of a binding term sheet that saw IPIC assume obligation for a US$3.5 billion bond principal and interest, currently held by 1MDB, and followed a US$1 billion cash payment made by IPIC to 1MDB in June. Earlier in October 2015, IPIC reaffirmed their commitment to working with 1MDB and the Malaysian Ministry of Finance.
Another report by the WSJ pointed out that 1MDB, in connection with a United States political fundraiser DuSable Capital Management LLC that had ties to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton signed a joint venture agreement, creating a fund Yurus PE Fund to develop solar power plants in Malaysia. Six months after the joint venture agreement was signed 1MDB bought out DuSable's stake of 49% of Yurus for US$69 million before any construction took place. According to bank transfer information, the WSJ revealed that Najib Razak spent close to USD$15 million on clothes, jewellery and a car in places such as United States, Singapore and Italy using a credit card that was paid from one of several private bank accounts owned by Najib Razak, that 1MDB funds were diverted to.
Malaysian investigations and actions
Change of auditors and transparency
The RM425 million profit between 25 September 2009 and 31 March 2010 raised many criticisms and controversies on the lack of transparency given to 1MDB's accounts. Tony Pua, DAP Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara questioned Najib Razak, 1MDB advisory board chairman, whether the figures were the result of an asset injection into 1MDB by the government such as the transfer of land rights to the company.
During the October 2010 parliamentary session, 1MDB explained that its accounts had been fully audited and signed by KPMG, and closed as of March 31, 2010. Deloitte was involved in the valuation and analysis of the portfolio, while Ernst & Young provided tax advice for 1MDB.
1MDB raised attention by asking for a six-month extension on the annual report meant to be filed in with the CCM by 30 September 2013. In the meantime, the change of three auditors since its inception in 2009 was considered suspicious. It also said that 1MDB has lodged the necessary information, including its registered address, with the Companies Commission of Malaysia as required by the law.
The Sungai Besi airport land transfer took place in June 2011 will be developed as Bandar Malaysia, a mixed integrated development of commercial, residential and hi-tech green environment. There have been questions by the opposition regarding lack of progress on Bandar Malaysia even after 1MDB raised RM3.5 billion in loans and Islamic bonds to fund the project and take ownership of the land. In April 2013, 1MDB awarded a RM2.1 billion contract to Perbadanan Perwira Harta Malaysia (PPHM), a subsidiary of Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) to develop eight sites for the relocation of Pangkalan Udara Kuala Lumpur, the military base in Sungai Besi. The construction of Bandar Malaysia will be set to commence following the completion of this relocation project. As part of its debt rationalisation plan, on 31 December 2015, 1MDB inked an agreement with a consortium comprising Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and China Railway Engineering Corporation to sell 60% of its stake in Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd.
On 7 September 2015 a member of the board of advisors to 1MDB Abdul Samad Alias resigned stating that he did so after his many requests for information on 1MDB affairs were ignored. 1MDB subsequently denied receiving repeated requests from Abdul Samad, stating that its President, Arul Kanda, has personally met Abdul Samad in January and March that year to "discuss the company's affairs".
1MDB has not had a proper external accounts audit since 2013, partly as a result of Deloitte Malaysia, their auditors at the start of that period, issuing a statement in July 2016 saying that their audit reports of 1MDB financial statements, dated 28 March 2014 and 5 November 2014 covering financial years 2013 and 2014 respectively, should no longer be relied upon. In early March 2015, with public discontent growing at the perceived lack of financial transparency at 1MDB, the Prime Minister, who is also the Chairman of 1MDB's Board of Advisors, ordered the Auditor General of Malaysia to carry out an audit of 1MDB. However, on completion of the audit, the final report was classified as an Official Secret and only made available to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tasked to investigate improprieties at 1MDB. Purported copies of the report have however surfaced on the internet.
In May 2018, after the formation of the new Cabinet following Pakatan Harapan's victory in the General Elections, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has ordered the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct a special position audit and review of 1MDB.
Debts and rating downgrade
It was reported that 1MDB has accumulated debts of nearly RM42 billion. Further alleged financial challenges caused 1MDB bonds to trade at a record low in early 2015. It was reported that the Malaysian cabinet had rejected a RM3 billion cash injection for 1MDB narrowing its options to pay off its debts on time.
Donation explanation from government
On 3 August 2015, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission stated that the RM 2.6 billion that had been banked into Najib's personal account came from donors, not 1MDB, but did not elaborate on who the donors were or why the funds were transferred, nor why this explanation had taken so long to emerge since the allegations were first made on 2 July 2015. UMNO Kuantan division chief Wan Adnan Wan Mamat later claimed that the RM 2.6 billion is from Saudi Arabia as thanks for fighting ISIS. He further claimed that the Muslim community in the Philippines as well as southern Thailand had also received similar donations, and that since the donations were made to Najib personally as opposed to UMNO, the funds were deposited into Najib's personal accounts.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he was aware of the donation and it was a genuine donation with nothing expected in return. Attorney-general Mohamad Apandi Ali has said that the donation was from one of the sons of the late Saudi King Abdullah. In an interview with ABC News, Wall Street Journal finance editor Ken Brown stated that the money did not come from the Saudis and they had evidence that it came from companies related to 1MDB.
Bank Negara actions
Using the premise that 1MDB used inaccurate or incomplete disclosure of information, Bank Negara has revoked permissions earlier granted to 1MDB for investments abroad totalling US$1.83 billion. Bank Negara has called the Attorney General to begin criminal prosecution of 1MDB after completing their own investigations of 1MDB. 1MDB has stated that they are unable to repatriate the US1.83 billion demanded by Bank Negara because the funds have been spent. Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz later retired and replaced with Muhammad bin Ibrahim on 1 May 2016.
The scandal took a dramatic twist on 28 August 2015 when a member of Najib Razak's own UMNO party filed a civil suit against him alleging a breach of duties as trustee and that he defrauded party members by failing to disclose receipt of the donated funds, and account for their use. This suit was filed in the Kuala Lumpur High Court and also named party executive secretary Abdul Rauf Yusof. Expressing fear that Najib Razak would wield influence to remove any member of UMNO "for the sole purpose of avoiding liability" the court was also being moved for an injunction to restrain UMNO, its Supreme Council, state liaison body, divisions and branches from removing the nominal plaintiff as a party member pending the determination of the suit. The plaintiff is also seeking a repayment amounting to US$650 million, the amount allegedly deposited by Najib Razak to a Singapore bank, an account of all monies that he had received in the form of donations, details of all monies in an AmPrivate Banking Account (No. 2112022009694), allegedly belonging to Najib Razak, along with damages, costs, and other reliefs. One of the UMNO representatives, Anina Saadudin, who filed the lawsuit, was immediately expelled from the party.
Another UMNO member, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, and his lawyer Matthias Chang, has submitted evidence on the 1MDB scandal to the Swiss attorney-general for investigation on whether any Swiss banks had done any business with 1MDB Khairuddin also lodged a police report in Hong Kong against Najib Razak and Jho Low, pertaining to three companies: Alliance Assets International, Cityfield Enterprises, Bartingale International and Wonder Quest Investment which had purported dealings with 1MDB. Khairuddin and Matthias were barred from leaving Malaysia after confirmation from immigration officials who were under orders by the police to prevent them from leaving. Khairuddin and Matthias were charged under the Security Offenses Act (SOSMA) under the pretext of sabotaging Malaysia's banking and financial sector.
The opposition People's Justice Party (PKR) has filed a lawsuit against Najib Razak, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, 1MDB and the Election Commission accusing them of violating election laws on campaign expenses, using funds from 1MDB. However the Malaysian High Court threw out the suit stating PKR had no legal standing to bring out the suit against Najib and 1MDB.
Following criticisms of the 1MDB issue, deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was removed from office and his position was given to Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who is the current Home Minister. Also removed from office was Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal who was also critical of the 1MDB issue.
The attorney general Abdul Gani Patail who was heading a multi-agency task force investigating claims of misappropriations of funds allegedly involving Najib Razak and 1MDB, was removed from his position and his post was given to Mohamed Apandi Ali, a former Federal Court judge. Furthermore, the Public Action Committee that was investigating the purported losses in 1MDB was indefinitely postponed due to 4 of its members being given positions in Najib Razak's cabinet, namely the PAC chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed, Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Wilfred Madius Tangau and Mas Ermieyati Samsudin.
The news publications The Edge Malaysia and The Edge Financial Daily were suspended for three months in July for allegedly publishing false reports on the 1MDB issue by the Malaysian Home Ministry. The website Sarawak Report was also blocked by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, which regulates Internet services in Malaysia. The Malaysian police have issued an arrest warrant for Clare Rewcastle Brown, who manages the Sarawak Report website giving the reason that she was involved in activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy and disseminating false reports about Najib Razak.
The police also arrested UMNO member Khairuddin Abu Hassan after he had lodged police reports in London, Singapore, France and Hong Kong regarding financial improprieties regarding 1MDB. According to his lawyer Khairuddin was going to the United States to meet with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to urged them to probe 1MDB over money laundering. However the FBI's New York City office has confirmed to the WSJ that no agent had arranged to meet Khairuddin or had any previous contact with him.
Former Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir who resigned from his post on 3 February 2016 saying he did so because he was told by Najib Razak that he was in the wrong in criticising Najib Razak and 1MDB.
Opposition member of parliament Rafizi Ramli was arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act by police and government for leaking information about the Auditor General's report on 1MDB.
The Home Ministry has stated that they and Interpol have been unsuccessful in locating the following individuals linked to 1MDB to help in facilitating their investigations into 1MDB: business tycoon Jho Low, 1MDB’s former senior executives Casey Tang Keng Chee and Jasmine Loo Ai Swan and SRC International managing director Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, and Deutsche Bank country manager Yusof Annuar Yaacob.
Currently, Medium.com, a popular platform offering amateurs and professionals alike a simple way to publish their articles, was also blocked by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), over a single article posted by Sarawak Report. Another website Asia Sentinel was blocked by the MCMC after carrying a Sarawak Report article related to the MACC completing a probe and having alleged 37 charges drawn up against Najib Razak involving 1MDB. Another Malaysian news website The Malaysian Insider was blocked and its journalists investigated for carrying a report saying that the MACC had found enough evidence in investigations into Najib Razak to charge him for corruption.
Ramifications and debt restructuring default
The Malaysian Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry into 1MDB revealed that the management of the fund acted without the board's approval and misled auditors several times, calling for the police to investigate its former manager. The PAC also found that the board of directors in which Najib Razak was the chairman failed in giving proper oversight of the fund's finances. The 1MDB board of directors immediately submitted their resignations after the PAC findings were made public. In the PAC report it stated that USD3.5 billion was paid to a company Aabar Investments PJS, however IPIC has released a statement stating that neither it or its subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS have any links to a British Virgin Islands-incorporated firm Aabar BVI or received any money from that BVI firm.
International Petroleum Investment Company made an announcement in a filing in the London Stock Exchange that 1MDB has failed to make a USD 1.1 billion payment as part of its debt restructuring agreement and that the debt deal between the two companies has been terminated.
Renewed investigations after 14th general election
After the 14th Malaysian general election (GE14) on 9 May 2018 which marked a historic defeat for the Barisan Nasional coalition lead by Najib Razak, Pakatan Harapan formed a new government lead by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The government set up a special task force headed by former Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to renew investigations into the 1MDB scandal.
The government barred Najib Razak from leaving the country and the police seized cash and valuable items amounting to between RM 900 million and RM 1.1 billion from residential units linked to Najib. As claimed by the police, this was the biggest seizure in Malaysian history with the seized items comprising more than 12,000 pieces of jewelry, 423 valuable watches and 567 handbags made up of 37 luxury brands. Najib was subsequently arrested by the MACC and charged with criminal breach of trust and abuse of power in connection with funds from SRC International, formerly a subsidiary of 1MDB.
On 28 June 2018, two days before the end of Arul Kanda's employment contract, he was sacked from 1MDB on grounds of dereliction of duties.
Investigations by foreign law enforcement agencies
Swiss authorities under the direction of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland began to freeze bank accounts amounting to several million US dollars linked to 1MDB. The Swiss attorney general's office said its investigation revealed indications that funds estimated to be US$4 billion may have been misappropriated and said it was looking into four cases of potential criminal conduct. The Swiss prosecutor has said that money had been deposited into Swiss bank accounts of former Malaysian public officials and current and former officials of United Arab Emirates. Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) has begun investigations into several Swiss banks as part of the money laundering probe involving 1MDB.
On 15 March 2018, the Swiss parliament rejected a motion to return seized monies from their investigations into 1MDB to the Malaysian people, as had been lobbied for by Swiss politicians and non-governmental bodies. However, on 10 July 2018, Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber indicated that Switzerland would not enrich itself by keeping illicit or stolen assets and be able to have the monies returned by legal obligations.
Hong Kong police have begun investigations regarding US$250 million in Credit Suisse branch deposits in Hong Kong linked to Najib Razak and 1MDB. United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office has begun investigations into money laundering involving 1MDB after it was highlighted by Clare Rewcastle Brown and Sarawak Report. The United Kingdom's investigation is focusing on the transfer of money from 1MDB funds in Malaysia to Switzerland as it involved Royal Bank of Scotland's branch in Zurich.
United States of America
It was reported the FBI in the United States had begun investigations regarding money laundering involving 1MDB. The US Justice Department's international corruption unit has begun a probe looking into property purchases in the United States's involving Najib Razak's step-son Riza Aziz and the transfer of millions of dollars into Najib Razak's personal account. The probe is looking at properties that have been purchased by shell companies that belong to Riza Aziz and close family friend Jho Low. Investment banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deutsche Bank AG and Wells Fargo have been asked by the Justice Department to retain and turn over records that may be related to improper transfers from 1MDB. The FBI has issued subpoenas to several past and present employees of film production company Red Granite Pictures in regards to allegations that US$155 million was diverted from 1MDB to help financed the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street and which has Najib Razak's stepson Riza Aziz as its co-founder and chairman.
Also under scrutiny by the FBI and Department of Justice is the role of Goldman Sachs in allegations of money laundering and corruption. The FBI is now probing the connection between a regional top executive of global investment bank Goldman Sachs to Razak and the nature of the former's involvement in multibillion-dollar deals with 1MDB. Tim Leissner, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs' Southeast Asia branch and husband of Kimora Lee Leissner was issued a subpoena by the Justice Department as part of their investigations.
Within the July 2016 Department of Justice civil lawsuit, a government official of high rank who had control over 1MDB was referred to as "Malaysian Official 1", and mentioned over 30 times. "Malaysian Official 1" was alleged to have received around 681 million USD (2.797 billion MYR) of stolen 1MDB money via Falcon Bank, Singapore on 21 and 25 March 2013, of which 650 million USD (2.0 bllion MYR) was sent back to Falcon Bank on 30 August 2013. In September 2016, Najib Razak was identified as "Malaysian Official 1" by Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department and the Barisan Nasional strategic communications director. Dahlan also claimed that Najib Razak was not named because he was "not part of this investigation". Malaysia's first lady is also alleged to have received US$30 million worth of jewels financed from pilfered 1MDB funds.
In June 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice began moves to recover more than US$1 billion from people close to Najib and 1MDB. Assets include high-end properties in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Manhattan, New York City and London. Also included in the assets seizure was fine artwork, a private jet, a luxury yacht and royalties from the film Wolf of Wall Street and its production company Red Granite Pictures. On 7 March 2018 in Californian courts, the producers of the 'Wolf of Wall Street' agreed to pay $60m to settle Justice Department claims it financed the movie with money siphoned from 1MDB.
In Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department have seized a number of bank accounts in Singapore for possible money-laundering offences related to investigations into alleged financial mismanagement at 1MDB. One of the bank accounts frozen belonged to Yak Yew Chee, who was the relationship manager for 1MDB Global Investments Ltd, Aabar Investment PJS Limited and SRC International and Low Taek Jho. Singaporean Yeo Jiawei, an ex-BSI banker has been charged for money laundering and cheating offences as part of the Singapore probe into 1MDB, and Yeo's dealings with firms linked to 1MDB, Brazen Sky Ltd. and Bridge Partners Investment Management. A second individual Kelvin Ang Wee Keng was charged with corruption in connection with Singaporean investigation into 1MDB.
According to a joint statement from the Attorney General's Chambers and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, assets totalling S$240 million have been seized during their investigations into 1MDB. Of the bank accounts and properties seized were S$120 million belonging to Jho Low and his family.
State prosecutors in Luxembourg have also started money laundering investigations concerning 1MDB as it involved transfers of several hundred million dollars to an offshore company involving a bank account from Luxembourg. The bank in question is a private bank of the Edmond de Rothschild Group which manages money on behalf of wealthy clients.
The United Arab Emirates has issued travel bans and frozen bank accounts of former Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund International Petroleum Investment Company's employees Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohammed Badawy Al Husseiny who had close connections to 1MDB, and may have used the British Virgin Islands-based Aabar Investments PJS to funnel money from 1MDB into various accounts and companies around the world.
The Seychelles's Financial Intelligence Unit is helping an international investigation into the troubled state fund 1MDB, by providing detailed information relating to offshore entities registered in Seychelles that are related to the international investigation.
The Australian fund management company Avestra Asset Management, which managed up to 2.32 billion in 1MDB funds, is being liquidated, and is under investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for reported breaches of the law and potential losses to its members. The Australian High Court has ordered five investment schemes run by Avestra to close down after discovering undisclosed related-party transactions, with 13 potential breaches of corporate law and failure to invest according to the fund's individual mandates.
Indonesia seized a superyacht Equanimity in February 2018 on the island of Bali at the request of the US Department of Justice as part of a corruption investigation linked to the 1MDB scandal. The Indonesian government returned the yacht to Malaysia in August 2018 following the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties between Indonesia, the United States and Malaysia.
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