THE charge by Singaporean prosecutors that Penang-born financier Low Taek Jho is the central figure in probes linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) is unlikely to ruffle any feathers here, said a lawmaker and a political scientist.
They said it will be business as usual in the ruling government, while the Singapore prosecutors’ findings will have little impact on public opinion of Malaysian institutions as confidence in them is already low.
DAP’s Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong believes most leaders from the ruling party will continue to ignore 1MDB proceedings in neighbouring Singapore as they did the civil suits filed by the US Department of Justice.
“They are like Alice in Wonderland. At least, Najib is,” said Liew, referring to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Yesterday, a Singapore state court was told that Low had received “huge” sums of money diverted from the state investor.
“The main victim in this case is 1MDB,” prosecutor Nathaniel Khng was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. “Jho Low has gone missing from the public eye.”
According to court filings in Singapore, about US$1 billion (RM4.3 billion) that 1MDB was to have invested in a joint venture with PetroSaudi International Ltd, was instead diverted to a bank account beneficially owned by Low.
At the same court hearing yesterday, former banker Yeo Jiawei admitted to charges including money laundering in relation to funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.
The Singaporean, who told the court he was a friend of Low’s, was sentenced to 54 months in jail.
“Whether 1MDB is a victim of Jho Low or 1MDB was ‘designed and built’ by Jho Low with the approval of Najib for the exact purpose of money laundering, the fact remains that Jho Low has clearly committed many crimes that should be investigated by Malaysian authorities immediately,” Liew said.
BEWARE THE FLASHING RED LIGHT
Political economist Andrew Aeria said events in Singapore are unlikely to cause public confidence in Malaysian institutions to drop any lower than it already is, as these institutions are perceived to be the government’s tools.
“The perception is that they serve the personal and family interests of politicians and not those of the public. Consequently, the rule of law is also perceived to be skewed towards serving individual political interests”.
Andrew, who is Universiti Malaysia Sarawak associate professor, said any response from the government would be to defend the status quo.
“It is thus not surprising to see government officials jumping to the defence of politicians, giving flimsy excuses for political excesses instead of standing up for public interest.
“Given this scenario, Malaysia is sliding down a very slippery slope into becoming a failed state, where government institutions lack professionalism, integrity, transparency, accountability, and predictability,” he added.
“Investors should take heed and beware the flashing red lights,” said Andrew.
Liew noted Najib pointing out that despite 1MDB’s “mistakes”, 1MDB “has done its fair share of good.”
Najib said this on Tuesday after presenting offer letters to 1,100 community leaders to perform the haj this year with funds from 1MDB.
“I thought that was a rare admission of guilt,” Liew said, adding that regardless of in which direction the Singapore case proceeds, Najib’s part in 1MDB cannot be ignored given he was the chairman and played an out-sized role in managing the fund.