As the United States Department of Justice together with the FBI move to initiate the largest kleptocracy asset recovery strike ever today, Sarawak Report would like to put in a small reminder in favour of media freedom, for voices great and small.
For the past several months this blog has been banned in Malaysia on the grounds of “spreading false news”. Moreover, the Editor has an arrest warrant out against them on the grounds of “actions detrimental to parliamentary democracy”. The government has been unsuccessfully lobbying INTERPOL for months to take these charges seriously, so that they can demand arrest and extradition from abroad.
The charges have not been substantiated with any evidence of any kind and it is even unclear whether such crimes even exist in Malaysia – no genuine democracy would tolerate such Orwellian forms of censure.
Meanwhile, the truth, of course, is that far from spreading falsehoods and undermining democracy, Sarawak Report has been revealing facts and exposing those genuinely responsible for criminally undermining the freedoms of the state, who happen to be a number of the people currently in charge.
It is the core job of a free media to alert the people to abuses of power. If any journalist muddles their facts or gets the story wrong then there are myriad ways to deal with them and to shame them with the truth.
When a powerful government fails to take that path and instead initiates clampdowns, blackouts and arrest warrants then all can guess that far from lying, those journalists have exposed unpalatable facts.
Indeed, Sarawak Report has called on Najib numerous times to sue us and confront us with our supposed lies in court – he did not dare.
However, while Najib has complained of lies, more independent and powerful regulators outside of his control have done their jobs. Top targets for their actions have been Najib’s US based step-son Riza Aziz, Najib’s key fixer Jho Low and 1MDB’s key business partner Khadem Al Qubaisi.
All of these men have accumulated outrageous assets thanks to their share of the US$7 billion loot from 1MDB.
For months Sarawak Report has led the way in highlighting the excesses and dubious contacts of these three men, as well as pointing to their connections to top bankers, who have turned out to be crucial to their dealings, including Goldman’s Tim Leissner and BSI’s Hans Peter Brunner.
And, of course, Najib’s other arch co-conspirators, the boys from PetroSaudi, who have spent the last year vilifying Sarawak Report behind the scenes and threatening the world’s media with all manner of legal action backed by million dollar lawyers, all paid for out of their own share of loot, should they so much as breath a word about PetroSaudi’s role in the whole affair.
In fact, of course, legal action outside of Malaysia by all these folks has fizzled away before it even began – they knew better than to test their stories before any independent judicial scrutiny.
Riza Aziz’s Red Granite Pictures dropped its blood curdling threats against Sarawak Report the moment we made clear we were happy to hear them out – in court.
Likewise, PetroSaudi have been forced to post the fiction that Sarawak Report is too far beneath their notice to bother about legal action, while on the other hand they have sweated day and night behind the scenes to defame, denounce and undermine us, whilst spending millions on threatening other media who had less access to the facts.
Now all these players – Najib, PetroSaudi and the rest are going to have to convince Malaysians that not only did Sarawak Report lie, and not only the The Edge, Malaysiakini, the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Australian, New York Times, Business Times, and numerous other publications lie, but that so is the Department of Justice of the United States and FBI, backed as they are by regulators in Switzerland, Singapore and elsewhere, who have all been taking action against 1MDB.
The asset recovery orders are the best possible indicator as to who is regarded guilty by US investigators after a year of forensic investigation of the money trails from 1MDB and how truthful the reporting has all been. We have reason to believe that the Feds have acted on SR’s news-breaking tip offs in a number of directions over the past year and will have also detected far far more in the way of solid assets in which these master-theives had hoped to conceal their wealth.
The asset list is due to be published shortly – meanwhile here is SR’s list of suspected FBI targets:
1) Jho Low’s Yacht! Today’s ‘Kleptocracy Asset Recovery’ has already been billed in advance as the largest ever in US history, totalling over a billion dollars of hardware. That is less than a sixth of the full haul, of course, and it is hoped that many of the liquid currency assets remain frozen in banks where they were identified earlier on, but there must be some serious hardware on the list. Sarawak Report was the first to break the news about Jho Low’s mega-yacht Equanimity, which is one of the largest in the world and was built for around US$600 million. Several celebrity targets of Low, in particular Leonardo di Caprio, have been happy to enjoy extensive hospitality on the yacht over recent years, all part of the Jho Low image building once he rocketed to billionaire status thanks to 1MDB. Equanimity would form one of the most substantial assets likely to be on the seizure list and account for over half the haul. Sarawak Report’s team of scouts has noted that the vessel has been moored for the past several weeks already on US territory at Palau in Micronesia!
2) Khadem’s cars and night-club chain! Sarawak Report has quietly passed on streams of information over the past months about KAQ’s assets, some that we have published and some we have not. Al Qubaisi and his British side-kick Neil Moffitt, who runs the Hakkasan nightclub chain in the US, have been reported to have been quietly collecting fleets of fancy cars, watches, paintings, jets and even horse farms largely from 1MDB proceeds washed through the Hakkasan, which is located primarily in Las Vegas and the United States. Some of those fancy cars are hidden in a discreet garage in Geneva for the mega-rich called Joker Cars. The string of Bugattis and other silly sports cars parked at Joker would alone account for several hundred million in the haul. KAQ also has considerable property in France – it remains to be seen whether such European assets will feature in any haul.
3) Paintings! Prestige modern art has proved a great way to inflate prices and pump money through. Attributing rocketing price tags to famous fad art eg the suicided Warhol protegee Jean-Michel Basquiat has seen great buys and sales in recent years, a great number of them attributable to Jho Low. The other benefit of art is that like starting a foundation it helps to lend respectability to the newly mega-rich, who are trying to penetrate society, like Low and KAQ. Hollywood celebrity types like Leonardo di Caprio and Alicia Keays have also been delighted to receive such pieces to auction off at charity, which helps them burnish their own images for free – Low has been very happy to oblige.
4) Buildings! Sarawak Report was, of course, the first to reveal the secret Hollywood properties of Riza Aziz, along with his New York mansion flat, LA penthouse apartment and US$100 million dollar movie business at Red Granite Pictures. Celebrities like Leonardo Di Caprio, have been pleased to enjoy lavish parties laid on at these prestige locations by these 1MDB connected owners. Riza first threatened to sue us for our revelations and then he dropped the case. Other US journalists then confirmed our loud suspicions that Riza’s 1MDB connected family friend and Hollywood groupie, Jho Low, was behind these acquisitions – it was Low who had originally bought those properties and then passed them on. These alone are worth hundreds of millions, along with the film company, which will help considerably towards totting up that billion dollar asset total. Add to this the vast New York investments of KAQ’s Tasameem property empire, a story also broken by Sarawak Report. These include the city’s tallest new residential block, One West 157th Street, which is largely owned by Tasameem.
We are sure that the FBI will have some other surprises on their list, due to come out in a few hours time. And, of course, remaining assets in the UK and Europe are unlikely to have been touched for now.
Malaysians must then think again whether they believe their rampaging, clamping-down Prime Minister when he says that there was no theft from 1MDB and that no money ever found its way from this public fund to his own family and associates.
The people and Najib’s parliamentary associates have to consider whether the world’s top regulatory authorities, along with Malaysia’s own former Attorney General (unconstitutionally fired by Najib for issuing a warrant for his arrest) and Malaysia’s current Auditor General (whose report was unconstitutionally made an official state secret by Najib) along with a swathe of former top UMNO leaders, now fired or resigned, are truthful and correct about this matter … or whether Najib and his circle of newly promoted, paid-up henchmen are correct?
Malaysians should also remember that at the end of the month Najib will enact a law, which he raced through on the last day of Parliament, at the end of the last year without warning. This National Security Act, which received no scrutiny and little debate will allow him to assume dictatorial powers to arrest and even kill anyone he feels like.
Chillingly, it even contains a deliberate provision that anyone who dies at the hands of the police acting under this Act, ie on the orders of the Prime Minister himself, will not receive an inquest.
Najib says he brought in this sudden law to confront ISIS in Malaysia. However, Malaysia’s own ruling council of Sultans and the Agong have all expressed their own concerns about these dictatorial powers, which the PM is seeking to acquire for himself and they have asked him to pause the Act to make amendments.
But, Najib has refused to do so. In an almost unprecedented move a new law of the utmost gravity is being forced through in Malaysia, in the face of open opposition of Malaysia’s ruling Sultans and the King.
This surprise law, driven through without debate in Parliament and without the consent of rulers, will give dictatorial powers to Najib.
Are Malaysians to lose their liberty, merely to continue to protect Najib from the consequences of his actions over 1MDB?