1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) was an incredibly complicated and sophisticated Ponzi scheme, a scam spanning across continents – involving Malaysia, Singapore, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and United States. It was so massive and scandalous that former US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions called it “the kleptocracy at its worst.”
The US Department of Justice investigation results says that over US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund, with some of the money used to buy a private jet, a super yacht, Picasso paintings, jewellery and real estate. So far, neither former Prime Minister Najib Razak nor his partner-in-crime Jho Low (full name: Low Taek Jho) dare to file any lawsuit to challenge the DOJ’s accusations.
And now, the Attorney General’s Chambers have announced that US$322 million (RM1.35 billion) from 1MDB assets is ready to be returned to Malaysia following the United States Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. The amount recovered includes a portion of the US$4.5 billion siphoned and plundered by the Najib regime.
The repatriation of the 1MDB assets is the simplest proof that money had been stolen. Why would the U.S. return the money if the sovereign wealth fund was not looted and robbed? Only gullible and dumb pro-Najib supporters still believe that their “boss” is innocent. Taking a page from the US-DOJ playbook, the Malaysian government and the police have filed a civil forfeiture suit – and Najib isn’t happy.
Yes, the new Pakatan Harapan government has learned a new trick from the US-DOJ. Instead of using criminal charges against the family of crooks, Najib and families, the civil lawsuit is a more powerful tool to prevent the mind-boggling 12,000 pieces of jewellery, cash, handbags, luxury vehicles and whatnot from being returned to Najib due to limitations of criminal charges and delaying tactics used.
Under Section 52A of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, a seizure order made under the Act will cease to have effect after the expiration of 12 months from the date of the seizure order. Previously, Najib’s political party, UMNO, had made a claim for the RM116.7 million that was seized, but High Court struck out the claim on March 22.
Before we begin, get yourself a truckload of popcorn and dozens of Coke. You see, Najib’s grand plan to stay out of prison is to delay his trial for as long as possible. The idea was to drag the trials until the next 15th General Election, and hopes his propaganda machines could turn the ethnic Malay voters against the present Mahathir government by playing 3R cards (religion, racial and royalty).
Such delaying tactics included Najib’s hotshot lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, getting bitten by his pet dogs as well as lawyer Harvinderjit’s absence from the trial due to food poisoning. Najib’s legal eagles have also comically claimed that their client – a prime minister cum finance minister – had been scammed, first by Jho Low and then by Nik Faisal (ex-CEO of SRC International Sdn Bhd).
After failing spectacularly to convince the public that Najib Razak was as dumb as those mules conned in Macau Scam, the defence team has on Wednesday (May 8) tried to blame the banks and even the Central Bank (Bank Negara Malaysia) for not alerting the former PM of suspicious transactions. What type of grass has the crooked lawyer Shafee been smoking since he was bitten by his dogs?
Did the lawyer actually expect the Central Bank to send alerts so that the crook could be tipped off that the regulators and authorities had detected his suspicious money laundering activities? Of course, attorney Shafee was just trying his luck and delaying the trial. Besides dragging the trial until the next election, another objective is to force the police to return the assets seized.
Last year on May 18, a massive police operation was launched and raided several luxury condominiums belonging to Najib’s children at Pavilion Residences, Bukit Bintang. Items confiscated included cash in 26 currencies, 12,000 (11,990 to be precise) pieces of jewellery, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 sunglasses – which were valued at between RM900 million and RM1.1 billion.
According to The Edge, the first notice of motion filed by the authorities on Tuesday (May 7) is to seize a property in the Klang Valley, cash (including foreign currencies), jewellery, handbags, watches and sunglasses said to be worth RM680 million. The second notice of motion is to seize RM31 million worth of items, including 27 luxury cars, cash (including foreign currencies), 29 bank accounts, as well as more watches and bags.
Without the latest “surprise” civil forfeiture action, the police would have no choice but to return all the assets seized last year because the 12-month deadline – a limitation on anti-money laundering law – will arrive on May 16. But why hadn’t the police charged Najib Razak and his families since the confiscation last year? Does that mean Mr. Najib is innocent after all? Not in a million years.
The cash, 12,000 pieces of jewellery, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 sunglasses confiscated last year were purchased using money from 1MDB. Attorney General Tommy Thomas’ strategy is to put Najib on trials for SRC International and 1MDB misappropriations separately. It’s easier, faster and straight forward to convict Najib of criminal breach of trust (CBT), money laundering and abuse of power in the SRC case.
After all, SRC International Sdn Bhd’s misappropriation involved local banks and KWAP Retirement Fund and did not cross continents. On the other hand, 1MDB’s misappropriation was more sophisticated and complicated, involving financial systems in half a dozen nations. That’s why Najib’s team of lawyers has been trying profusely to drag 1MDB into the current SRC trials, when both are different matters.
Like playing LEGO, the tactic is to skin Najib one part at a time. Therefore, the criminal charges against Najib in regard to the over RM1 billion assets seized from his children’s luxury condominiums last year could not be started before the SRC trial ends. As admitted by Najib himself, if the confiscated luxury items are returned, it will prove him innocent.
Now do you understand why Najib’s defence team has been deploying every single dirty delaying tactic in their arsenal? However, there’s a reason why PM Mahathir Mohamad appointed Tommy Thomas as the country’s new attorney general. Best known as a constitutional law expert, it also happens that Mr. Thomas is a damn good civil litigator.
Any first year law student knew that Najib’s lawyers would delay the SRC trials for as long as possible. To counter such tactic, A.G. Thomas has simply filed civil lawsuits against the cash, jewellery and other luxury items seized from Najib and families. Civil forfeitures are different from criminal charges as they were initiated only against the property and not against persons.
That was why the US-DOJ has filed civil – not criminal – lawsuits initially in 2015 to seize billions in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds, including a private jet, luxury real estate, artwork and jewellery. The advantage of using civil forfeiture action is that it will ensure those assets seized are not dissipated – money or property doesn’t get spent, sold or transferred.
So, if the cash, 12,000 pieces of jewellery, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 sunglasses continue to be under the authorities’ protection, the evidence will remain intact for the coming 1MDB trials. You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell what Najib, wife Rosmah, their children Nor Ashman Razak, Nooryana Najwa, and stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz would do once the assets are to be returned to them.
All the luxury items will be sold instantly while the cash will be transferred or spent to eliminate the evidence. 1MDB misappropriation case will be as good as dead. Another reason why civil lawsuit is a genius tactical move is that theburden of proof lay with the accused (in this case, Najib and families). Najib and families have to prove that it was their property and no criminality was involved.
Yes, with the status changed to “civil” from “criminal”, Najib’s hotshot lawyer Shafee Abdullah will now have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the eye-popping luxury items and cash were the property of Najib. The prosecutors do not have to prove anything. That’s why Najib and his so-called hotshot attorney Shafee were like cats on hot bricks – terribly upset and terrified about the civil forfeitures.
Exactly how on Earth could Najib and families prove that a property in the Klang Valley and goods such as jewellery, designer handbags, watches and sunglasses valued at RM680 million, on top of 27 luxury vehicles, more watches, bags and money contained in 29 bank accounts (all of which amounted to RM31 million), were legally obtained is beyond comprehension.
The desperate Najib shamelessly flashes his in-law cards. He has cried, moaned, whined and bitched on Facebook that the items seized from his property on May 18 last year actually belonged to his daughter, and not him. Comically, Najib argued that his daughter’s mother-in-law was married to a man whom he considered one of the richest in his home country of Kazakhstan for 10 years.
The former prime minister has also claimed that Maira Nazarbayev, the mother-in-law of his daughter, Nooryana Najwa, had spent up to US$75 million (RM311 million) of her ex-husband’s money to buy jewellery from just one jeweller during their marriage. Maira’s son, Daniyar Kessikbayev, married Nooryana Najwa in March 2015.
However, what Najib did not tell his walking zombie supporters is the fact that his daughter’s husband was a crook himself. Nooryana’s husband, Mr. Daniyar, was a scammer who had cheated his stepfather’s (Bolat Nazarbayez, the younger brother of Kazakhstan, former President Nursultan Nazarbayev) US$20 million condominium in New York.
With his mother’s help, Daniyar, acting as power of attorney for his stepfather, transferred the deed of the property into his own name in 2011. In fact, Daniyar’s mother, Maira Kesikbayev, was a con artist herself. After Mr. Bolat discovered (to his horror) later that Maira was actually still married to somebody else when they married in 2001, he was furious and divorced her in 2009.
As a result of Daniyar and his mother’s con job in stealing his 4,000-square-foot “The Plaza Hotel” condominium, one of New York’s most prestigious properties, Bolat had his ex-wife (Maira, the proud mother-in-law of Najib’s daughter) put under house arrest in Kazakhstan. He had also accused Daniyar of refusing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance fees for the condominium unit.
The suit was ultimately settled out of court in 2014 when crooked Daniyar agreed to transfer the condominium back to Bolat’s name. Najib and Rosmah’s son-in-law had also reportedly falsified documents – using his new last name “Nazarbayev” and forged documents saying he had graduated from a high school in Kazakhstan to get into U.S. Columbia University.
Najib’s son-in-law actually went to a high school in Switzerland but never graduated. Eventually, Daniyar earned a degree from Columbia in 2010 and used his good looks to woo Nooryana Najwa. Their marriage in 2015 was so extravagant that RM3 million was spent on the flower decorations alone at the ceremony at KLCC. But the story didn’t end there.
Maira Kesikbayev, a Kazakh socialite with a penchant for expensive gems, was herself a cheapskate thief. Back in 2015, the notorious Maira had taken Razak family name to the next level of glory when she ordered a dozen of Hermes handbags worth US$401,912.50 (£308,988; RM1.67 million) from the Financial District business Samilor in 2014 and 2015, but but refused to pay.
In her attempt to recover the money owed, Samilor President Bella Belkin warned Maira Nazarbayev of legal action. Amazingly, not only Maira didn’t bother to pay or intimidated by the lawsuit threat, she reportedly threatened the business owner – “You know who my son is! He is son-in-law of the Prime Minister of Malaysia! I will hurt you and your family if you sue me!”
Does it make any sense that Maira was so wealthy that she had left 12,000 pieces of jewellery, 567 handbags (comprises luxury handbags from 37 different designers, including Chanel, Prada, Hermes and ultra-luxury Bijan), 423 watches, 234 sunglasses – worth RM680 million – for Najib’s daughter when the same woman had resorted to scam just a few Hermes handbag worth less than half a million US dollars?