What Took You So Long, Singapore? Trying To Cover Najib’s 1MDB Scandal?

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Feb 02 2016
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For the whole year of 2015, the focus was on Najib’s naughty hands caught in the cookie jar but the scope was confined within Malaysia. Only after F.B.I opened investigation papers on the Malaysian prime minister’s stepson Riza Aziz funding over extraordinary real estate purchases and movie production that the scope widened to United States.

FBI Department of Justice DOJ - Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor - inset Riza Aziz

Still, F.B.I. investigation was on Riza Aziz and not on PM Najib Razak personally because it wasn’t “directly” about 1MDB’s RM42 billion scandal. Only after Switzerland dropped the bombshell last Friday that a criminal investigation into 1MDB had revealed that about US$4 billion appeared to have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies, Singapore is forced to react.


Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber’s has publicly accounced that their findings of US$4 billion misappropriation was a result of criminal proceedings that Switzerland opened last August (2015) against two former 1MDB officials and “persons unknown”. Naturally, every Tom, Dick and hamster have already linked poor Najib Razak as the culprit.

Switzerland Attorney General Michael Lauber - Najib Razak and 1MDB Scandal

Out of professionalism, Mr Andre Marty, spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General in Switzerland (OAG), took the trouble yesterday and told business publication Nikkei Asian Review that Mr Najib Razak is not one of the public officials under accusation. But that doesn’t mean the Malaysian prime minister is as innocent as a lamb.


In the context of Swiss law, the term “persons unknown” simply means there was reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed, but the accused was not known. It could be Najib Razak, Jho Low’s father Larry Low Hock Peng, or someone else. At the current stage of investigation, Zurich doesn’t want to embarrass the Malaysian prime minister unnecessarily.

Jho Low and Father Larry Low - 1MDB Scandal

But one cannot help but to wonder what took Singapore ages to finally do something useful – seizing a large number of bank accounts over possible money-laundering and other offences linked to alleged financial mismanagement at Malaysian state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Have the Singapore authorities been sleeping on the job?


The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) stated last night that they have been investigating possible offences since the middle of last year. The last time Singapore did something on the 1MDB scandal was on July 15, 2015 when they froze two Singapore bank accounts, the first time accounts outside Malaysia had been frozen in connection with the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal - 1MDB Web of Spending - 28Dec2015

Here are the interesting parts. Singapore police only moved in to freeze the accounts on July 15, 2015 after the Wall Street Journal exposed (on July 2, 2015) about a money trail involving US$681 million transacted through Tanore Finance, a company in the British Virgin Islands, and Falcon Private Bank in Singapore.


It would take Singapore authorities another 6-month to freeze more bank accounts linked to 1MDB. Like the first time, the Singapore authorities only decided to react after the Office of the Attorney-General in Switzerland (OAG) exposed to the world about US$4 billion misappropriation in their 1MDB’s investigation.

Monetary Authority of Singapore - Building

Was it a mere coincidence that Singapore authorities reluctantly do “something” only after the Wall Street Journal and the Office of the Attorney-General in Switzerland dropped bombshell? It seems the Government of Singapore is trying to close one eye despite the fact that close to US$700 million of questionable money passed through Falcon Private Bank on their soil.


It was also a public knowledge when 1MDB’s President – Mr. Arul Kanda – updated the Board that the balance of US$939,874,085 had been redeemed and had been held as cash since 31st December 2014. Subsequently on March 11, 2015 the Minister of Finance (PM Najib Razak himself) issued a Parliamentary reply to questions from the opposition DAP MP Tony Pua.

1MDB Scandal - Brazen Sky Limited BSI Singapore Signboard - No Cash

In his reply, PM Najib had confirmed that the remaining US$1.103 billion had already been “redeemed” from Brazen Sky’s alleged off shore fund in the Cayman Islands and stated that it was being “kept in US currency” at BSI Bank Limited, Singapore. But on April 22, 2015 it was revealed that documents supplied by 1MDB relating to its Brazen Sky Limited account in Singapore were false bank statements.


Did Singapore authorities realize there was no cash but merely “units”, not to mention false bank statements were being used when monies were supposedly transferred from Cayman Islands to BSI Bank Limited, Singapore? Shouldn’t someone be arrested for possible money laundering or misappropriation of US$700 million?

Prime Minister Najib Razak and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - You Scratch My Back, I Scratch Your Back 

Singapore sits in the middle of the major US$700 million transactions yet the country plays a reactive role as far as combating dirty money laundering is concerned. It plays dumb and would only incrementally freeze bank accounts when other western countries cry foul about misappropriation in the 1MDB scandal. The government doesn’t really care about the source of monies brought into the island.


Perhaps Singapore, in its desperate attempt to become an offshore financial centre, allows and even encourages questionable and “dirty money” to freely flow in and out of the country. It doesn’t help that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak are buddies who enjoy a very close relationship, which could falsely but easily turned into rumours about high-level cover-up.

Taib Mahmud  - former Sarawak Chief Minister - and Wife 

Of all the countries involved in the 1MDB scandal – U.S., U.K., Hong Kong, Singapore Switzerland – obviously Singapore would be the biggest beneficiary if they agreed to “scratch Najib Razak’s back” in return for business deals in favour of Singapore. After all, didn’t Singapore happily facilitate stashing of dirty cash from Sarawak former Chief Minister Taib Mahmud as exposed by Global Witness?


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