Money in Malaysian PM Najib's accounts from 1MDB, not from Saudis: WSJ editor

Following The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) finance editor's claim that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's "political donation" of RM2.6 billion (S$867.4 million) was not from the Saudi royal family, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) has once again refuted that and called his allegation a "lie".

WSJ finance editor Ken Brown told Australia's ABC News in an interview that the newspaper had evidence to back their claim that the money came from companies related to troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

But 1MDB said on Friday (Feb 19) that the fact that it had never transferred funds to Mr Najib's accounts has been stated by the authorities, reported The Malaysian Insider

"Contrary to the Wall Street Journal's baseless and unproven allegations, 1MDB has consistently maintained that it has not paid any funds to the personal accounts of the prime minister," 1MDB said in a statement yesterday. 

"This has been reiterated by multiple lawful authorities, including the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, attorney-general, and various reputable international publications, who have confirmed that these funds came from Saudi Arabia."

Last year, WSJ broke the story that close to US$700 million (S$986 million) from 1MDB had been transferred into Mr Najib's personal accounts, citing documents from a government probe.

Various investigations into 1MDB were set up, but in January this year, Malaysia's AG said that the funds had been a gift from the Saudi royal family, and that there was no criminal offence or corruption involved. The AG also said that Mr Najib had returned US$620 million that had not been utilised.

In the ABC News interview, Mr Brown was asked about plans by the Malaysian government to introduce new laws to increase sentences for people who leak official secrets.

"It is no surprise that it comes after the attempt by the government to say that this money that went into the Prime Minister's bank account came from Saudi Arabia. The reality is that no one really believes that," he said.

The case that rocked Malaysia: 1MDB

  • Every time 1MDB borrowed money, large amounts of the cash were quickly misappropriated, according to investigators. The money followed a circuitous path, and roughly US$1 billion landed in the private bank accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
  • Transaction 1: The Saudi Arabian oil venture money

    1MDB borrowed about US$1.8 billion for a joint venture with Saudi oil company PetroSaudi International. About US$1 billion of the cash went to a Seychelles company called Good Star Ltd. A co-founder of PetroSaudi, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, received US$24.5 million from Good Star before transferring US$20 million to Mr Najib via an intermediary.

  • Transaction 2: The power plant money

    Two bonds worth a total of US$3.5 billion were sold for 1MDB by Goldman Sachs to fund the purchase of power plants. 1MDB was supposed to pay money for a guarantee on the bonds to a unit of Abu Dhabi's IPIC called Aabar Investments PJS. Instead, the funds went to the similarly named Aabar Investments PJS Ltd.

  • Transaction 2: The power plant money

    From Aabar BVI, about US$637 million went to a company called Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners. Another US$463 million went from Aabar BVI to two mutual funds in the Caribbean island of Curaçao and then onto Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, which transferred a total of $170 million to Mr. Najib’s bank accounts.

  • Transaction 4: The Abu Dhabi real estate money

    Of the US$1.05 billion Mr. Najib received in his accounts, only US$80 million appears to clearly originate with Saudi Arabia. Another US$120 million came via an intermediary based in Saudi Arabia. At least US$20 million of that US$120 million has been traced clearly back to 1MDB by investigators. The remaining US$850 million came via Tanore Finance and Blackstone Asia.

  • Transaction 4: The four paths

    1MDB sold US$3 billion in bonds via Goldman Sachs to fund a real-estate joint venture with Abu Dhabi. 1MDB transferred US$1.27 billion ended up in a British Virgin Islands company called Tanore Finance Corp, which then transferred US$680 million to Mr. Najib’s accounts.

  • On July 20, 2016, US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than US$1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
  • Riza Aziz, stepson of PM Najib; Low Taek Jho, and Khadem Al Qubaisi, former Abu Dhabi managing director of sovereign wealth fund have been named in US Justice Department's lawsuits involving seizures of assets allegedly acquired with stolen 1MDB funds.
  • Riza Aziz, co-founder of Red Granite Pictures, was accused in US lawsuits of using US$100 million dollars that was diverted from Malaysian state development fund 1MDB in a money-laundering scheme, to finance the film.
  • US Department of Justice said Abu Dhabi tycoon Khadem al-Qubaisi, who helmed IPIC, used 1MDB funds to buy a New York penthouse and Beverly Hills properties.
  • UAE central bank reportedly told banks to freeze the assets of Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohammed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny (photo), the former chief executive of Aabar Investments PJS and provide information about their deposits and transactions.
  • Producer Riza Aziz (Lt) and cast members like Leonardo DiCaprio (next to him), at the UK premiere of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ in London. The movie was allegedly produced using stolen 1MDB funds.
  • A Beverly Hills home was bought by a shell company allegedly tied to Low Taek Jho.
  • Produced by Riza Aziz's Red Granite Pictures, The Wolf of Wall Street is expected to make another US100 million, according to industry analysts in the wake of the US lawsuits to seize assets acquired allegedly with stolen 1MDB funds.
  • Dumb And Dumber To was produced by Riza Aziz's Red Granite Pictures. US Department of Justice has named him in its lawsuits to seize assets acquired allegedly with stolen 1MDB funds.
  • Another movie produced by Riza Aziz's Red Granite Pictures is Daddy's Home.
  • Swiss authorities have seized artworks acquired allegedly with stolen 1MDB funds. They include Vincent Van Gogh's sketch La Maison de Vincent a Arles and Claude Monet's Nympheas avec Reflets de Haute Herbe (photo), which is worth US$57.5 million.
  • Swiss authorities seized Vincent Van Gogh's sketch La Maison de Vincent a Arles, which is worth US$5.5 million.
  • Also seized by Swiss authorities was Claude Monet's Sainte-Georges Majeur, which has an estimated worth of US$35 million.
  • PM Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansoor in a minor pilgrimage at Mecca in March 2016. Najib has repeatedly denied wrongdoing over 1MDB allegations. US Department of Justice did not name him in its lawsuits but mentioned the involvement of a "Malaysian Official 1'.
  • Dr Mahathir Mohamad (R), former Malaysia Prime Minister, called for PM Najib to step down after the US disclosure.
  • A photo of a Park Laurel apartment in New York city. US Department of Justice said among the properties allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds is a US$33.5 million condominium at the Park Laurel. The purchase was made by a shell company allegedly controlled by Mr Riza Aziz, the step-son of PM Najib.
  • TwentyOne Angullia Park in Orchard Boulevard, where Mr Low Taek Jho owns a penthouse bought for $42.91 million in 2013, and another unit bought for $11.53 million. Singapore authorities have prohibited any dealing in the units since February 2016.
  • In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that deposits into personal accounts of Malaysia's prime minister totaled more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) - hundreds of millions more than previously identified.
  • Tim Leissner, a Goldman Sachs partner who handled deals for 1MDB was suspended and later quit after bank investigators found he allegedly violated firm policies.
  • On Feb 5, private banker Yak Yew Chee withdrew his request to release money in his bank accounts, which had been frozen by Singapore authorities as part of their probe into 1MDB.
  • Yak Yew Chee, a senior private banker with Swiss bank BSI, was the first name to emerge from the Singapore probe into 1MDB, after it was reported that he was seeking access to his bank accounts which were frozen as part of the investigations.
  • In January, Malaysia's attorney-general said on in January that US$681 million (S$974 million) transferred into Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank account was a gift from the royal family in Saudi Arabia.
  • It was later reported that the payment was personally authorised to Prime Minister Najib Razak by Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah.
  • Malaysians, eager to see if bank details that were published in the report were Madam Rosmah's, have been transferring RM1 (36 Singapore cents) to her account, liberal news portal Malaysian Insider reported.
  • Nine documents detailing how almost US$700mil (S$943mil) in 1MDB funds allegedly ended up in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's (pic) personal bank accounts have been released by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
  • The documents showed alleged bank transfers from various companies to Najib's personal accounts on March 2013, December 2014 and February 2015.
  • However, some details such as the last five digits of the AmIslamic Bank Bhd account, said to belong to Najib, were redacted.
  • The development fund, which owns a large portfolio of power plants, has missed payments on the bridge loan that was due end-December and its lenders were keen to see it paid before they had to write it down in first-quarter earnings, bankers said.
  • Local media have reported that the final deadline was Feb 18.
  • Malaysia's indebted and controversy-ridden state investor 1MDB will be left as a skeletal structure and possibly dissolved under a debt repayment plan in which most of its assets will be sold, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
  • 1MDB, a property-to-energy fund whose advisory board is chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has built debt of nearly 42 billion ringgit ($11.73 billion) to build a portfolio of power plants
  • Malaysian billionaire Krishnan is preparing to settle a $550 million loan owed by troubled state fund 1MDB, four sources familiar with the matter said - a last-minute reprieve for the fund whose debt woes are pressuring the ringgit and the country's sovereign credit rating.
  • Arul Kanda, newly appointed president and group executive director of Malaysia's state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)
  • In his first week on the job, Kanda, the new head of loss-making Malaysian state investor 1MDB has had a ringside view of his future challenges.
  • A missed loan payment that spooked bond and currency markets...
  • And a possible delay in an ambitious asset sale he must pull off to cut a debt pile of nearly $12 billion.
  • Regarded as a cross between a sovereign wealth fund and a private investment vehicle, with Prime Minister Najib Razak chairing its advisory board, 1MDB is struggling under the burden of $11 billion in borrowed money.

"Our reporting has shown for months now that the money did not come from the Saudis, but it came via a bunch of companies and bank accounts related to 1MDB," Mr Brown said, adding that their story had not been called into question yet.

He described the saga as a "peel-the-onion" story in which new pieces of information emerged every week, but felt it would be difficult to keep the investigations away from Mr Najib.

When asked if he thought Mr Najib would be able to survive the investigation, Mr Brown highlighted the possibility of Malaysia's ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party rising up to oppose him due to their frustrations over the scandal and fear of losing power at the next election.

"But it still hasn't happened, and he has retained his control of power," he noted.

He added that moving forward, the "real action" would be from the overseas investigations into 1MDB. "If they find real serious stuff, it will be hard for the Malaysians to ignore it," he said.

Authorities in Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong are still investigating the 1MDB affair.

In Singapore, the Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore seized a "large number of bank accounts" linked to the alleged financial misappropriation at 1MDB in January this year.

Among these were the accounts of private banker Yak Yew Chee, who handled the 1MDB account after he joined Swiss private bank BSI.

seanyap@sph.com.sg

maryanns@sph.com.sg

More about
Najib Razak

SERVICES