From Najib Razak to Rosmah Mansor, Lim Guan Eng to MARA, it seemed our news feeds were inundated with news about corruption (allegedly, allegedly) yesterday.

In other news, the government has finally made clear just where we are required to wear face masks; our Covid-19 numbers are back up to double digits; the man who toppled a state government may not get to see a return to power; and, a media outlet has pooh-poohed our top cop’s statement regarding the raid on its KL office.

All about corruption

Money makes the world go round

Our favourite rotund rogue Jho Low, was the most frequently brought up name in court yesterday as former PM Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial continued.
 
Under questioning by the defence, former 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi said Low had claimed in 2013 that he could get Jibby to bulldoze through a US$6 billion guarantee letter from the government for a joint venture between 1MDB and Aabar Investment PJS Ltd, better known to us as Aabar BVI. All Shahrol needed to do was get 1MDB, via Goldman Sachs, to draft a “letter of comfort” for the guarantee to the Finance Ministry. 
 
This guarantee was to allow Goldman Sachs to raise a US$3 billion bond for 1MDB to finance the JV with Aabar BVI, a company set up to mirror Aabar Investment, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC). 1MDB and Aabar BVI were to invest US$3 billion each in the JV, but the latter failed to do so in the end.
 
The court also heard about how Low was in the habit of “masking” offshore company names to sound like established companies, such as in the case of Aabar BVI. This was also true of Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Company Ltd, known by its acronym of Admic, the company set up in the JV between 1MDB and Aabar BVI. 
 
It was originally called the Malaysia Abu Dhabi Investment Company (Madic), but Shahrol said Low had told him that the “Abu Dhabi guys” were sensitive that “Malaysia” in the name came before “Abu Dhabi”. So, Shahrol agreed to the name change.
 
However, when asked if he had ever heard of a legitimate company called Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp, incorporated in Abu Dhabi, Shahrol said he had not and agreed it had the same acronym as Admic. Put to him that the name change from Madic to Admic was intentionally done to confuse people and for Low to siphon money, Shahrol said he could not comment.
 
The tactic displayed by the defence yesterday is a continuation of the theme they have employed in all their arguments both in this case and the SRC International trial before this: painting Low as the culprit behind embezzlement of funds in both companies, with our boy Jibs just a patsy who was too dumb to know what was going on.
 
Low is an easy scapegoat, considering he’s scarpered from the country and has been missing for years. Our police insist Low is being hidden in Macau, despite denials from Chinese and Macau authorities. The cops say other suspects wanted in connection with 1MDB are in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and are appealing to Chinese authorities to “act responsibly”. 

In any case, the ‘let’s blame Low’ tactic didn’t work for Jibby in the SRC International trial (well, not yet anyway), but the defence doesn’t look to be changing tack in the 1MDB corruption trial. 
 
In another court, where the Jibster’s beloved better half Rosmah Mansor is facing a corruption trial of her own, we learned that a tycoon businessman was roped in to help legalise kickbacks for Mama Rosie from Jepak Holdings, the company she had helped (allegedly, allegedly!) obtain a RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for schools in Sarawak.

Jepak’s MD, Saidi Abang Samsudin claimed Kak Mah’s aide, Rizal Mansor, brought him to meet the said tycoon, Desmond Lim, at the businessman’s office in Pavillion. So who’s this Desmond guy? Well, this is the uncle that owns Pavillion, among others. Apparently he’s worth a cool half a billion USD. How did they go about legalising the kickbacks? Tbh, it’s confusing and convoluted AF, but if you have a masochistic streak, you can read about it here.
 
Saidi also revealed he had to grease the palms of numerous people, and not just our former “first lady”. He even had a Special Action Unit (better known here as UTK) escort when moving RM5 million which was supposed to go to Rosmah. Saidi also claimed he never received receipts for RM6.5 million in “political donations” to BN and Umno which he had given Rosmah. 

The issue of corruption was also brought up in Parliament yesterday. DAP’s Damansara MP Tony Pua submitted a motion to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee to monitor efforts by the government to recover 1MDB and SRC International cash and assets, following the settlement between the government and Goldman Sachs for the recovery of US$3.9 billion, a deal which has been criticised as being inadequate. 
 
De facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan, meanwhile, claimed there’s nothing stopping the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) from reopening investigations into DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng for alleged wrongdoings in an underpriced purchase of a bungalow in Penang while Lim was the state’s CM. T̶a̶k̶o̶y̶a̶k̶i̶ Takiyuddin’s claim was denied by Saudara Lim’s lawyer who said it would be double jeopardy
 
For the record, Lim and the person who sold him the bungalow, Phang Li Koon, were acquitted of all charges, and under the Federal Constitution, a person acquitted of an offence cannot be charged again for the same offence. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, he or she also can’t be charged with another offence relying on the same facts. But… the CPC also says a person can be charged again if the court that had acquitted him or her is deemed to have been incompetent to try the offence. 

In the final corruption-related story of the day, a “Malaysian domiciled in Australia” has been charged by Aussie police with bribing a Malaysian official to secure the sale at an inflated price of Dudley House, an apartment complex in Melbourne, to a subsidiary of MARA. Malaysia boleh!

I can see clearly now...

Well, folks, it seems the gomen has finally deigned to get off its ass and tell us just where and when we need to have our face masks on.
 
It’s only been five days since the ruling for mandatory face mask use in public transportation and crowded places came into effect, but better late than never, we guess. There are 14 categories in all, and 13 of them are pretty clearly defined, with the remaining one (social events) left a little bit general.
 
The places where face masks are compulsory are:
Mosques and prayer halls;
Houses of worship;
Public transportation;
School buses and vans;
Zoos;
Sports and recreation areas when not a participant;
Clinics and hospitals;
Public and farmers markets;
Cinemas and venues with live entertainment;
Family entertainment outlets;
All retail outlets, including restaurants; hairdressers and beauticians;
Spas and wellness centres.

The retail outlets category covers all places where retail transactions are made, including petrol stations, workshops and laundromats. 
 
At least now we know where we are required to wear masks, except that one little category of social events. But we guess if we’re attending a social event, we might as well have those masks on just in case.
 
We still maintain, though, that the gomen really should come up with guidelines that are crystal clear before putting any decision into effect. After all, if they can do it for some things, like the korban activities for Hari Raya Aidiladha, why can’t they do it for all?
 
Meanwhile, the yo-yo “performance” of our Covid-19 numbers continued yesterday as we returned to double digits after two days of really low increases. We recorded 21 new cases yesterday, though 15 were imported, including 12 from Yemen. Of the six imported cases, three were from the Sivagangga cluster in Kedah. There have now been 9,023 Covid-19 cases in the country since the pandemic began. 
 
The good news is that our Covid-19 infectivity rate has now dipped back below the crucial threshold of 1.00. It is currently at 0.78. 
 
Anyhoo, here are a few other Covid-related news which came out yesterday:

  • The government has no problems allowing Muslims to perform the minor haj, or umrah, but this would depend on the Covid-19 situation in the country as well as the decisions taken by Saudi Arabia. 
     
  • The Finance Ministry says those burdened with debts should apply to their respective banks directly and without delay if they required an extension to the loan moratorium. 
     
  • Penampang preschool has been closed after a student there was believed to have contracted Covid-19. 
     
  • The Malaysia Day celebration in Sibu will go on as planned despite the recent spread of Covid-19 in the state. 
     
  • After a couple wearing wristbands from a pet shop caused some concern in Penang, we now have a case of a woman in Perak also causing a spot of bother after she was spotted wearing a wrist tag from a theme park. Seriously, can establishments stop handing out wrist bands for a while, please? 

The seas aren't parting for Moses

After causing the fall of Warisan’s Sabah government, there are now questions over whether Musa Aman can actually realise his dream of returning to power in the Land Below the Wind.
 
Sabah Bersatu information chief Khairul Firdaus Akbar says the combined strength of his party and that of Umno is enough to take on Warisan and its allies. Khairul says Sabah Bersatu chief Hajiji Mohd Noor and his Umno counterpart Bung Moktar Radin would be the best combination to lead the state opposition to glory. 
 
Analysts, therefore, are asking where Musa fits in all this. With both Bersatu and Umno shaping themselves up into a united front, both will have to look into the “Musa factor”. One thing to be considered is that it was Musa’s allegedly unilateral decision to take down Warisan and not Umno’s, but the other thing is that Musa doesn’t actually have a position in Sabah Umno. 
 
So the biggest concern is where Musa stands, not to mention seat allocations among the loose Sabah opposition coalition made up of Bersatu; BN parties Umno, MCA and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah; Parti Bersatu Sabah; Sabah STAR and Parti Cinta Sabah. What we want to know is why there are so many parties with the word “Bersatu” in their name??!? 
 
Meanwhile, a former BN party says it is looking to rebrand and make a comeback in the state election. Liberal Democratic Party will contest independently in 25 seats, a big step up from the four it contested in 2018, all of which it lost. 
 
With straight fights expected in many seats, could LDP play spoiler, or even kingmaker in the impending elections? Who knows, but should they win a number of seats, who they choose to support, whether Warisan or the current opposition, could make a difference.

In other news, former Sabah PKR vice chairman Kenny Chua, who was sacked from the party after he threw in behind Musa, says he is now looking for a new party to join. He says he has been approached to join three or four local parties, but declined to name these.

AJ and other odds and ends

A day after the cops raided media outlet Al Jazeera’s KL office, IGP Hamid Bador has maintained that it was conducted professionally and rejected any concern about the worsening of media freedom in Malaysia. Our top cop also says AJ was informed of the raid beforehand, a claim disputed by the media outlet later. 
 
This comes after media groups and human rights organisations condemned the raid on AJ as well as Astro and Unifi TV, which carry AJ programming. They warned of deteriorating media freedom in the country, citing the raids as just the latest example of moves against journalists and media orgs. 
 
Anyway, here are some other articles from yesterday that we thought should be mentioned at least in brief:

  • Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has questioned why Bumiputeras are still struggling despite decades of aid, adding that a thorough study needs to be initiated before the 12th Malaysia Plan is rolled out. We think Anwar should make up his bloody mind, considering just the day before he slammed the government for the delay in tabling the plan. 
     
  • Amendments to the Wildlife Conservation Act will see increased penalties for online trade of wildlife, something which has become more rampant these days. Good! 
     
  • Remember that whole flying car episode we laughed about during Pakatan’s time in power? Well, apparently the Perikatan gomen sees great future potential in the project. 🤦
     
  • A travel ban slapped on Maria Chin Abdullah in 2016 was apparently imposed within permissible grounds, as it involved questions of government policy and national interests. While previous case law has established that travelling overseas is not a fundamental right in our land, one really wonders if the Immigration Department’s reason from barring her – which was that she ridiculed the government – is enough to ban her from leaving the country. Besides, even without Maria, we all know most of our governments, past and present, are inherently ridiculous!
     
  • Malaysia has offered assistance to Lebanon following the massive explosion in Beirut. The blast saw more than 100 people killed and thousands injured, but Malaysian soldiers serving under UNIFIL are all reported to be safe

“Life is a mask through which the universe expresses itself."

- Frank Herbert -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The death toll from the explosion in Beirut has climbed to at least 135, with more than 5,000 injured and many still missing. The casualty list is expected to continue to climb as rescuers continue searching for victims of the blast. 
     
  • Lebanon, meanwhile, has placed port officials on house arrest pending investigations into the blast, while France has begun its own probe as 21 of its citizens were injured in the incident. 
     
  • The UN Security Council will vote on a US bid to extend an international arms embargo against Iran, but some diplomats have warned that the measure lacks support. 
     
  • The global Covid-19 death toll has now risen past 700,000, with the US accounting for nearly 160,000 of these. Yet POTUS Donald Trump still struggled to grasp the severity of the pandemic during a task force meeting in the Oval Office, according to a source familiar with what went on. 
     
  • A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship “Mars” vehicle has successfully flown to an altitude of 150m before deploying its landing gear and touching down softly. 

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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