Najib Razak rarely shuts up these days (between court appearances at least) as he seeks to re-invent and re-habilitate his reputation, presumably in advance of arm twisting the present coup coalition, which depends on his support, into either dropping the scores of charges raised against him or into forcing judgements that find him ‘victim’ of the crimes he sanctioned.
Indeed, Najib’s Facebook brags would bring a blush to Donald Trump.
When he isn’t boasting about how nice he is, what a ‘Bossku’ he is and how wise, he is lambasting and attacking others for supposed incompetence. He especially loves to criticise opponents over alleged mismanagement of Malaysia’s public funds, which he is world famous for having pilfered to the tune of billions.
What the self-justifying Najib wants everyone now to believe is that he has been the target of disgraceful, politically motivated charges, when in fact he did nothing criminal at all and was merely a victim of the multi-billion dollar fraud that took place against Malaysia on his watch.
To which he must answer the question as to why has he so constantly changed his stories about what happened – why, in other words, he lied?
Specifically, there are his changing stories about Jho Low. Confronted by the enormity of the scandal an innocent individual would have told the truth and allowed investigations to continue untrammelled. If Najib had done so we might be more sympathetic to his present claims about being duped by his proxy at 1MDB, the young ‘financier’ Jho Low.
Instead, at the time Najib told what he must now admit was a total lie, given the nature of his present defence which is that Jho Low controlled 1MDB and bamboozled the poor PM/FM into believing the multi-millions that he received into his personal bank accounts were kind gifts from admiring foreign royals in the Middle East.
Answering a parliamentary question in back in March 2015 (a couple of weeks after Sarawak Report first exploded the scandal) Najib denied that Jho Low had any role whatsoever in 1MDB:
Low Taek Jho has no involvement with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), said Datuk Seri Najib Razak. The Prime Minister said, all decisions and transactions are made by the company’s management and board of directors.
“Low Taek Jho has never worked in 1MDB and all decisions and transactions are made by the company’s management and board of directors,” Najib said in a written reply to Wangsa Maju MP, Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong.
Tan, in Parliament on March 12, had wanted to know if there were any connection between Low, who is also known as Jho Low, and the wholly government-owned strategic development company. [Asto Awani]
Just days before this utter denial Jho Low had given an interview (published April 1st) in which he made clear he was expecting to be set up as Najib’s fall guy by UMNO and that he would not hesitate to speak out to implicate him if he was:
“It’s so frustrating,” he says. “I’ve never faced this kind of attack from all directions. Its just crazy, and these UMNO guys are spinmasters, they know all this sort of nonsense.” He continues: “All these guys go round and round and round and I say: ‘Guys, it’s very simple, there’s a board, who’s the shareholder?’ Have you ever seen one statement from anyone that talks about the simple governance of a company? “Are you telling me the prime minister doesn’t make his own decisions? That the ministry, the minister of finance, who is the prime minister – and there are only two to three people in the finance ministry that sign off on shareholder resolutions under law – that none of them… that they just signed without evaluating it?” Low is on a roll now: “Did the people supposed to be responsible for decision-making (at 1MDB) suddenly decide to absolve all their responsibilities and then create this PR campaign with me as the focus of it? “No one seems to ask the question who is the ultimate decision-maker on 1MDB? No one asks that. No one ever asks about the shareholder’s role.” He concludes: “There are so many other people who get away with ridiculous billions and billions and billions worth of projects. But every single time there seems to be a political attack, wow, suddenly Jho is there again.” [Euromoney]
After all, Jho Low was playing a standard role in 1MDB as the PM’s proxy. Giving evidence to the judge in the course of the 1MDB trial the CEO of the time and Najib’s private secretary, amongst others, made absolutely clear that everyone involved knew that Jho Low was giving instructions on behalf of the sole shareholder and sole permitted decision maker of 1MDB, namely Najib.
The use of a proxy is standard practice, of course, when powerful figures seek to disguise abuses. The proxy is the ready tool in the structure of ‘deniability’ should things go wrong – the ‘fall guy’.
Yet, with Jho Low free and ready to sing like a canary in Hong Kong, back in 2015 Najib preferred to stick to the fiction that Jho Low had nothing to do with 1MDB, that no money had gone missing and there had been no wrongdoing by the fund at all.
As we now know from all the court evidence, he set Jho onto the next task of raising money through negotiations with Abu Dhabi and China to pay back the gaping debts. In July 2015 he sacked the Attorney General and closed down the Task Forces into 1MDB and January 2016 his new AG declared the case to be ‘closed’ and Najib ‘cleared’.
For the next two years Najib maintained this total lie, as now admitted by his own defence, whilst Jho Low continued to push 1MDB’s stolen money round the globe, do deals with Abu Dhabi and raise kickbacks from China out of inflating Malaysian pipe line and rail contracts. All that while Najib, who now admits Jho Low was engaged in all these antics, continued to maintain his proxy had no role at 1MDB, let alone managing his own personal bank accounts.
Hauled before the courts Najib finally changed his tune after the election defeat of 2018. For the first time the deposed PM started to admit that Jho Low had performed a ‘limited role’ in introducing supposed Middle Eastern investment to the fund.
Of course, Najib was neglecting to point out that there had been no Middle Eastern investment in the fund, as that story was itself a front. All the money invested was borrowed by the fund and ultimately guaranteed by his own Ministry of Finance!
What’s more, Najib claimed that the involvement of Jho Low owed only to the introduction by the Sultan of Terengganu who had used the financier to advise on the earlier Terengganu Investment Authority stage of the fund (after being introduced by his sister, said Najib in court).
Fast forward to the present state of the Prime Minister’s defence, which paints a very different version of what went on. Now it is Najib’s excuse that he was wholly duped by Jho Low and that as the sole shareholder and permitted decision maker at 1MDB he had simply not been able to supervise the billions channelled from the fund as he was so busy with other important matters – so much for blaming others for incompetence.
Najib no longer denies that Jho Low was giving out all the instructions to the management and board of 1MDB, he just says he didn’t realise that it was happening. He says he didn’t know that hundreds of millions went to his stepson Riza’s movie company (although it turns out he knew enough to ring the ruler of Abu Dhabi to ask him to vouch for the money to get Riza off the hook).
He has ceased to pretend (most of the time at least) that the money that was channelled into his new bank accounts to pay his bills for luxuries and political allies came from ‘friendly royal donors’, yet he still claims that he had no idea that Jho Low was the man who was managing all his payments.
As Najib now explains it, Jho Low had evilly placed his side kick Nick Faisal to be a signatory on these accounts and Faisal had moved money in and out without Najib realising it was stolen or where it came from. This despite the fact that Najib at one point signed some of the money back to the 1MDB related company from whence it came.
Najib still denies he told Jho Low when he needed money and how much, even though prosecutors have pointed out that Low therefore must have had some psychic powers to be able to ring the bank and arrange for transfers to match upcoming million dollar expenditures then immediately made by the ‘bamboozled’ PM.
In an interesting twist on the ‘fall guy’ scenario, Jho Low remains in China managing the stolen millions having left Najib to left to ‘face the music‘ as he puts it. The pair have evidently decided if they work together they can turn the clock back as they clearly believe most Malaysians are either stupid or can be bought.
If so, be ready to be presented with a whole new version of events in which neither Najib nor Jho Low stole 1MDB’s billions, but that once again it was all made up by Sarawak Report.