An Umno minister claims to know the identity of at least one of the sources of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in its report that Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco) had pulled out from a joint venture with Petronas to develop an oil refinery in Pengerang, Johor.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the WSJ report, earlier this year, had cited three people.
“One of them is Clare (Rewcastle) Brown and the other two are from the opposition,” Rahman told the Dewan Rakyat today.
Rewcastle-Brown is the editor of Sarawak Report, a whistleblower site that is highly critical of the government.
In its Jan 26 report, WSJ cited “three people familiar with the matter” as saying Saudi Aramco had pulled out from the Pengerang project.
Reuters had also published a similar report, citing “industry sources”, a day earlier, on Jan 25.
Deal inked during Saudi king’s visit
Despite the initial reports, Saudi Aramco and Petronas eventually inked a US$7 billion joint venture deal to develop the Pengerang refinery.
The deal was inked during the visit to Malaysia by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Rahman made the WSJ sources statement when rubbishing a question from Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) on whether Saudi Aramco had pulled out from the project due to the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil forfeiture suits involving 1MDB.
“This is a low class question, which is based on WSJ which is the qiblat (prayer direction) of the opposition,” he said.
The DOJ suits claim, among others, that US$678 million from 1MDB had been misappropriated into the accounts of a Malaysian Official 1 (MO1)
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak – whom Rahman confirmed as MO1 – however maintained that the sum was a donation from the Saudi royal family.
Questions for this current Parliament meeting were submitted before Feb 17, 10 days before Najib announced that the Saudi Aramco-Petronas deal was back on.
In the initial reports, WSJ quoted sources who said Saudi Aramco had concluded that it would not generate sufficient revenue from the project.
However, Reuters reported that Petronas would be pushing ahead with plans to start Rapid’s operations in 2019, despite Saudi Aramco’s withdrawal.
Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani, had at that time, told Malaysiakini that “Petronas could not agree on some of the terms, so both parties decided to stop the negotiations and move on.”
Meanwhile, Rahman stressed that Saudi Aramco’s investment is only in part of the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project.
Rapid in turn, is only part of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC), he said.