United Kingdom was ranked 10th in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index. Britons, however, should have little reasons to smile because their country is virtually as corrupt as Nigeria (ranked 136th) and Afghanistan (ranked 166th) for recognizing and happily rubbing shoulders with those corrupt leaders.
Prime Minister David Cameron had his fair share of embarrassment when he was overheard telling Queen Elizabeth II that Afghanistan and Nigeria were “fantastically corrupt countries,” and “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.” Amusingly, Cameron made the comments when he was hosting the corrupt leaders while chairing an Anti-Corruption Summit on 12 May, 2016 in London.
The best part – when President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria was asked about Cameron’s remarks, he actually agreed that Nigeria was “fantastically corrupt” (*grin*). He then turned the tables, demanding the British government to “return of assets” that were taken out of Nigeria by corrupt officials and business people and are now held in British banks.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. The Nigerian president was at least honest about his country being “fantastically corrupt”. If it had happened to Malaysia, a country ranked 54th in the same chart, Prime Minister Najib Razak would have denied it before throwing bombastic rhetoric about misinterpretation, misconception and lots of conspiracy theories.
When David Cameron talks about how bad corruption was and how he wishes Britain to set a global example of virtue, tons of corrupt leaders invited to the summit must have had hard time not to burst into laughter. He is worried that his capital city – London – might become “a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world”, indeed for “plundered and laundered cash”.
Like it or not, hypocrisy is the occupational disease of British leaders. On one hand, they lecture Africans and Asians on the bad thing of corruption. But on the other hand, they welcome corruption money with a red carpet rolled out. Is Cameron administration going to stop free flow of corrupt money from any of the 40 countries who met in London?
If one were to take a “kleptocracy tour” of the London mansions owned by allegedly corrupt billionaires, leaders (present and former) and cronies; one would discover “big names” like the son of the toppled Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak and stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak around Westminster, Belgravia and Kensington.
Yes, the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak – Riza Aziz – was the latest rich and famous named and shamed by The Wall Street Journal as the owner of a mansion located in London’s exclusive Belgravia neighbourhood. Mr. Riza reportedly bought the property in July 2012 for a cool US$34 million (£23.3 million; RM138.6 million) – money allegedly originating from 1MDB.
Protected by security gates, the redbrick four-story house, built around 1900, is a short walk from Malaysia’s diplomatic mission in London’s exclusive Belgravia neighbourhood. According to the WSJ, the registered owner of the house is Qentas Holdings Ltd., a company based in the British Virgin Islands of which Riza is the beneficial owner.
Including US$50 million worth of properties in New York and Los Angeles, at least US$238 million was reportedly transferred to an offshore company owned by Mr Aziz called Red Granite Capital from another offshore company set up to resemble an Abu Dhabi company 1MDB did business with. The money was also used to finance the 2013 movie – “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
The offshore company – Aabar Investments PJS – received more than US$3.5 billion from 1MDB over several years. Documents from the WSJ show that Red Granite Capital received US$133 million in June 2012 from the offshore company. And a month later Mr Aziz sprung into action and bought the London mansion – without a mortgage.
1MDB is today at the centre of corruption probes by authorities in Malaysia and eight other nations – Switzerland, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, United States, Hong Kong, Australia and United Kingdom. OK, forget about Malaysian authorities because all have been sacked, promoted or rewarded to clear PM Najib Razak’s involvement.
The burning question to United Kingdom is this – while her buddy, the U.S. FBI, is busy investigating the allegations of money laundering by Riza Aziz, what has the U.K. authorities done so far? Did Cameron even realize that RBS Coutts in Zurich, owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, is one of the banks that had transferred 1MDB’s money out of Malaysia?
True, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office is currently looking into Royal Bank of Scotland’s involvement in the scandal, but it was only after whistle-blower Sarawak Report’s exposure that the UK authorities started lifting their fingers. Strangely, Singapore authorities also have the same disease – sprang into action only after revelations by the WSJ.
Get real, Riza Aziz bought his London mansion close to four years ago and nobody in UK cares about where he got his millions. There’s little doubt that Britain is a “safe haven for corrupt money”, and David Cameron and Queen Elizabeth II should be proud of it. How come? That’s because they knew about the corrupt money industry and has virtually done nothing about it.
In fact, Britain would rather play dumb and close one eye as long as money flows into the country, regardless of the source of it. Any proof that the UK is as corrupt as Nigeria or Afghanistan? Jonathan Marland, a House of Lords member and former British trade envoy practically worships PM Najib Razak for bringing RM4 billion Battersea redevelopment investment.
That’s fine because UK is in desperate need of foreign money. What is unacceptable was when questioned by British Channel 4 News journalist; Lord Jonathan Marland had the cheek to say he didn’t know about the news of US$681 million found in PM Najib’s personal account, despite the 1MDB scandal being investigated in 8 nations, including United Kingdom.
As Baron Marland, not only was his comment an insult to the international business community intelligence, he has essentially brought shame to Cameron administration, the United Kingdom and the Queen Elizabeth II. Considering that one in 10 properties in the City of Westminster and £120 billion worth of properties in England and Wales are owned offshore, it’s puzzling Cameron bitches about corruption.
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