According to a key witness in Jibby Razak’s 1MDB trial, the sovereign wealth fund wasn’t set up with the prime intention of transforming the Malaysian economy but to fund Umno.

Elsewhere in today’s newsletter (it's a short one today folks), things get heated in Sabah, more than a thousand Malaysians appear to have had their data nicked by a Chinese tech company, a special task force is being set up to deal with environmental crimes, and our Covid-19 numbers go up some more.

Funding politics

The 'real' reason 1MDB was set up

The story Malaysians were fed with when 1Malaysia Development Berhad (you know, that beleaguered 1MDB) was formed back in 2009 was it intended to draw foreign investments and drive economic transformation for the country.

Yeah, not so much though, it turns out. A former chief executive of the company has now claimed the fund’s main purpose all along was to fund Umno and secure that the interests of then PM Najib Razak. Or at least, that’s the story supposedly according to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (nama glamer, Jho Low).

 

To refresh your memory, our beloved Bossku is charged with 25 1MDB-related charges – 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.08 billion and four counts of abusing his position to obtain RM2.28 billion.

Yesterday, ex-CEO Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman – the 10th prosecution witness in the trial – had testified he met Jho-boy in the flesh back in 2012. During the meet, the not-yet-on-the-lam Low allegedly informed him 1MDB was meant to help Umno via strategic investments. How? Gulab Jamun Jho (Hasan Minhaj’s words, not ours) apparently didn’t say. 

Hazem, for the record, replaced Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi as 1MDB CEO in March 2013 and oversaw much of the partnership initiative between the company and the United Arab Emirates’ Aabar Investment PJS. Like his predecessor Shahrol, the dude is claiming it was actually Low who called a lot of the shots, but that getting instructions from him was like receiving ’em direct from Najib.

 

If you recall, Najib had, in the SRC International trial in which he was found guiltypinned much of the blame for the1MDB debacle on Low. Hazem, though, has maintained it was pretty clear from the start that the financier was Jibby’s right-hand man. For example, he noted not only was Low present with Jibby at a number of signing ceremonies and investment meetings abroad, the financier would also often be seen in deep discussion with the Jibster at his home prior to meetings on 1MDB issues.

 

Incidentally, while Hazem claimed he was a loyalist and kinda scared of Najib, he apparently had no trouble disobeying Jho Low when the dude ordered for a bunch of emails to be junked. Instead, the former exec has testified he kept key correspondences from Low as evidence. Bravo.

 

Over in another court, we have the graft trial of Jibby’s wifey dearest. The 21st prosecution witness, Rosmah Mansor’s former aide Rizal Mansor (no blood relation as far as we know) had admitted taking about RM1 million from Jepak Holdings, not as a bribe, but as “political donation”. 

You see, Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd is the company Mama Rosie Mansor allegedly helped obtain an RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for hundreds of rural schools in Sarawak. Dear Rosie is on trial for soliciting RM187.5 million and receiving bribes totalling RM6.5 million from Jepak managing director Saidi Abang Samsuddin.

Oh, our man Rizal had also admitted to using the money to score an umrah trip to Mecca for him and his family in 2016 on a chartered first-class flight!

 

If you think that’s unbelievable though, get this – the dude had also acknowledged living in an RM3.5 million house, as well as owning a fleet of expensive cars and two super pricy bicycles, despite taking home a government salary of just RM7,000.

 

Thick-skinned Rizal was able to say all this in court while maintaining a cool-as-a-cucumber demeanour too. Whether it was all an act to save face in public, we don’t know, but his nonchalance did end up grating on the nerves of lead defence counsel Jagjit Singh, who at one point in the cross-examination called the former aide “the biggest scumbag in the country”.

The lawyer was, as expected, warned by the trial judge to mind his language and ended up having to rephrase his statement. Thing is, we’re not sure the reworded put-down – “a most dishonest, contemptible and despicable person” – was very much better.

 

Both Jibby and Rosie’s trials continue today.

It's getting hot in here

Remember how we said yesterday that nomination day in Sabah was largely peaceful? Not anymore. It’s not taken long for nastiness to kick into gear, with candidates and party reps from all sides happily taking potshots at each other. 

 

Verbal jousting is, of course, a hallmark of polls campaigns. Even so, in Sabah, given the fact certain issues never seem to end and many candidates tend to be linked ’cos of family/previous political ties, the attacks have always tended to appear more personal and vicious.

 

Take the case of Shafie Apdal being attacked over the illegal immigrant situation in Sabah, for example.

 

The caretaker chief minister and his party, Parti Warisan Sabah, have constantly been whacked for apparently being friendly to illegal immigrants, with his political foes often linking this to Shafie’s Bajau ancestry.

 

Yep, the Warisan boss has repeatedly warned his accusers, among them Frog King Jeffrey Kitingan and former cabinet colleague Anifah Aman, of legal action if they continue with allegations of the sort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have deterred his detractor very much.

 

In fact, Anifah and Jeff’s latest assaults have seen the duo once again questioning Shafie’s Bajau roots and branding Warisan a party of illegal immigrants. Shaf, of course, was quick to fire back, pointing out he’d never have been appointed a deputy defence minister if he was an undocumented migrant (to use the less politically-loaded term), and that both his grannies are buried in Semporna, Sabah, not Japan, like certain other politicians’ grans.

 

Why Japan? Well, we can’t say for certain ‘cos the relevant people haven’t responded yet. But Shafie’s clap back appears to suggest that Anifah and his bro, former CM Musa, have roots in Japan. Meow!

 

In case you’re wondering, immigration and heritage matters frequently get dragged into the spotlight in Sabah due to the high number of undocumented immigrants in the state, which at last tally was something like 1.2 million individuals to Sabah’s population 3.9 million. The issue is indeed a thorny one and despite a Royal Commission of Inquiry being set up in 2012 and the commission finding evidence of the controversial Project IC existing, very little has been done to address the problem. Oh, and side note, the Bajau people are the second largest indigenous ethnic group in Sabah. They have origins in the southern Philippines, true. However, they’ve been in the state since well before the British.

 

Anyways, Shafie wasn’t only on the receiving end, as the dude also made some pretty bold accusations about a certain former CM, particularly about how 700,000 acres of forest reserve was handed out to friends and family.

 

Meanwhile, Perikatan Nasional, too, found itself in the political crosshairs, with PKR leaders questioning if Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s coalition is a legit entity. The issue appears to have cropped up ’cos apparently checks with the Registrar of Societies’ (RoS) online registration system did not list PN as a registered political party. 

 

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you see it) it turns out that everything’s above board at least as far PN’s legitimacy goes, with the RoS noting that while the party was registered in August this year, the body only updates its records once in two months. 

 

Here’re a few more interesting Sabah-related items from yesterday:

  • You know that Shafie Apdal “Unity” poster that’s getting a lot of attention, not least ’cos it looks a whole lot like former United States President Barack Obama’s “Hope” poster? Well, it seems that the stylised portrait was designed by a group of youths that, admittedly, didn’t know much about politics. The youngsters have said, though, they were inspired by a video they watched of Shafie.
     
  • Despite going back on its promise to only contest 15 state seats, setting up clashes with its PN allies in 17 seats in the process, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) has insisted it’s not greedy. It also has claimed there’s still time for negotiations between the allies before polling day on Sept 26.
     
  • Warisan candidate Alias Sani has insisted he’s not a terrorist, despite being previously arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) over an alleged link to the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network. Instead, Alias, who’s contesting the Sekong seat, has said he’s actually “a Muslim who loves peace.”
     
  • Sabah BN chief Bung Moktar Radin has promised that Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) parties will serve up a blueprint to intensify development in Sabah if they’re given the mandate to form the next state government.  

Big data breach ... and other bits and bobs

According to international news reports, the personal details of millions of people, among them 1,400 Malaysians, have been obtained by a Chinese company with links to the country’s military and intelligence networks.

 

The company at the centre of the controversy is Shenzhen-based tech firm Zhenhua Data, which, reports have claimed, lists the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party among its clients.

 

Zhenhua’s database was reportedly leaked to an American academic who was previously attached to Peking University. It apparently, contains info like dates of birth, addresses, marital status as well as political associations, criminal records and corporate misdemeanours.

 

It’s unclear at this point just which Malaysians are on the list, but what we do know is that international figures such as British and Australian PMs Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison as well as their relatives are among the 2.4 million people worldwide who’ve been affected.

 

Our Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has noted, rightly, the reports have yet to be verified by Malaysia, so an investigation ought to first be conducted. Unfortunately, apart from remarking that a probe’s been ordered and the data of Malaysians is protected under the Personal Data Protection Act 2010, not very much more was said.

 

Anyways, thanks for a relatively quieter Monday, we hope to keep today’s newsletter short. In the interest of brevity, we’ve summarised other interesting news into easily-digestible chucks for you: 

  • Malaysia’s active Covid-19 cases have climbed to 615 following an increase of 31 cases yesterday. Most of the new cases were registered in Sabah, with the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster accounting for 17. Meanwhile, the number of patients needing intensive care has also shot up, with 11 cases recorded across the country. The figure was just 9 on Sunday.
     
  • Still on Covid, non-Malaysian spouses and children of citizens can now apply for permission to enter the country sans the need for long-term passes. The leeway, however, is only being granted to folks from countries not been barred from entering Malaysia. Guidelines for the application process are available here.
     
  • The inquest into the death of Nora Anne Quoirin continued Monday with the Coroner’s Court hearing how sniffer dogs had picked up the Irish-French teen’s scent near the villa she was staying at before losing her trail at the rapids. The inquest resumes Oct 1. Nora Anne, 15, disappeared from The Dusun resort last year prompting a 10-day search for the missing teen. Her body was eventually found 1.5km from the resort.
     
  • Amanah veep Husam Musa has quit his party position. Party peeps claim the move is meant to strengthen Amanah in Kelantan, and not ’cos of a fallout between Husam and el presidente Mohamad Sabu.
     
  • special task force is being set up to act against environmental crimes. Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man says the unit, which will involve the Department of Environment, Water Services Commission, Biosafety Department and the police, could begin work as early as next month.
     
  • Muhammad Syukur Khamis, the lad dubbed the Malaysian ‘Mowgli’ and who became an internet sensation after a photo of him interacting with his family’s herd of buffaloes won international awards, is grieving the deaths of some 36 buffaloes. It’s uncertain how so many of the animals have died so quickly however, the Terengganu Veterinary Services Department reportedly suspect that hemorrhagic septicemia may be the cause.

“The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket."

- Kin Hubbard -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Yoshihide Suga’s been elected the leader of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, paving the way for the 71-year-old to succeed Shinzo Abe as PM.
     
  • China’s ByteDance has rejected Microsoft’s bid to acquire TikTok’s US operations, picking Oracle instead as a strategic “technology partner”. Despite the video-sharing app’s woes with the US government, it has hit the 100 million active user milestone in Europe. 
     
  • Singaporean singer-actor Aliff Aziz is staring at possible prison time for pilfering a load of cash and behaving in a disorderly manner in public. The court had originally considered a mandatory treatment order (to treat any possible mental conditions) in place of jail time but eventually decided against it. Aliff was previously fined in 2014 for stealing two mobile phones.
     
  • There may not be aliens on Mars, but what of Venus?. A gas called phosphine – which signifies life on Earth – has been detected in the Venusian atmosphere. On Earth, phosphine is a flammable, foul, toxic gas produced by bacteria in oxygen-starved environments.

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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