The oddest thing happened a day ago when former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s name was mysteriously removed from a Wikipedia list detailing the wealth of former and current heads of state and government in the world.
Citing 53 references, the Wikipedia page had listed Mahathir as the second richest former head of government after deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak whose wealth stands at somewhere between US$ 40 billion and US$ 70 billion.
However, while the Wikipedia page is still available in Malaysia, Mahathir’s name appears to have been mysteriously removed on Mon 17 Dec 2012 minutes after Malaysia Chronicle ran a story with the headlineMahathir now the world’s second richest ex-leader with US$ 44 BILLION?Alerted by a staff that Mahathir’s name had been replaced on the No. 2 spot by the late Indonesian president Suharto, the editors decided to withdraw the story pending further checks and granting that information on Wikipedia can sometimes be manipulated.
(Refer to the photographed version below of the page with Mahathir’s name clearly listed after Mubarak and compare it with the modified version as per the linkhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_heads_of_state_and_government_by_net_worth.)
It must be noted the story was written in good faith and based on the Wikipedia allegation that Mahathir possessed a fortune of some US$ 44 billion. Obviously, if true, then there can only be bad implications for both Malaysia and Mahathir for how else could a prime minister elected by the people accumulate so much wealth without being involved in some way or other in corrupt activities.
Whether Mahathir really possesses such a staggering sum as US$44 billion – no one knows. And like his name oddly ‘disappearing’ from the Wikipedia list, the complex convolutions that need to be unraveled to reach the truth of how rich Mahathir and his family really are, will surely be beyond the efforts of even Hercule Poirot and Miss Marplecombined. Indeed, an army of international accountants, auditors, financial and banking specialists would be required, no less.
Extorted Taib and Jeffrey?
Even so, according to one of the references cited by Wikipedia, Mahathir’s modus operandi may be deduced by extrapolation and logical deduction from that adopted by Mubarak i.e. being in virtually every piece of business deal in the country thanks to guaranteed profits from monopolies, red tape fees, bribery fees, nepotism and whatnot. http://www.financetwitter.com/2011/02/marcos-mubarak-mahathir-whos-the-richest-man.html
Mahathir came to power in 1981, retiring only in 2003. The 1980s were a politically and economically turbulent decade for Malaysia as Mahathir struggled to stamp his control over his party, rivals and the government. Money always helps in any tussle. This is something that Mahathir, now 87, would have realized from early on.
Some political observers believe he may have launched himself on building up his personal war chest to finance his dynastic politics by first preying on Sabah strongman Jeffrey Kitingan and on Taib Mahmud of Sarawak. And to this day, Taib is accused of still ‘feeding’ Mahathir to stay in power as Putrajaya’s Chief Proxy in Borneo.
There’s no way that Taib could have stayed on as Chief Minister for so long in Sarawak and out of reach of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) without him taking care of the powers-that-be in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of the federal government. Alternatively, those in Putrajaya are using Taib to bleed Sarawak dry.
It’s no secret that Mahathir has always detested Taib and tried to humiliate him upon becoming Prime Minister in 1981 by demoting him to the post of Federal Territory Minister allegedly to show his utter contempt for the man. There might have been some method in this madness. Mahathir’s loathing of Taib would have cost the latter plenty and more than usual. All the more reason to keep Sarawak on her knees and subservient to Putrajaya as a vassal state.
Jeffrey refused to part with even a sen to Mahathir before ISA
Taib “refused” or declined/neglected to take up his appointment as Federal Territory Minister and returned to Sarawak with his tail between his legs, upon Mahathir becoming Prime Minister, to take over from his uncle, Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, as Chief Minister.
By that time, the Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp) under Stephen Yong was threatening to leave BN unless the allegedly anti non-Muslim Rahman was removed as Chief Minister.
Jeffrey, as the political grapevine goes in Sabah where there are no secrets; refused to part with even a sen to Mahathir and the latter coincidentally had him incarcerated under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) for two two-year terms.
Jeffrey was accused by Mahathir of plotting to take Sabah out of Malaysia by force and establishing a Christian Republic with him as President.” Mahathir is widely believed in Sabah to have stage managed relieving Jeffrey of all his overseas accounts for his growing gravy train before letting him out just in time for the 1994 state election.
The fact is that Jeffrey, at one time, was wealthy behind comprehension and he doesn’t seem to have that kind of money anymore and coincidentally after his incarceration under the ISA.
Mahathir apologists claim that many of Jeffrey’s trusted aides and nominees also made off with millions kept under their names abroad, on business in Sabah and elsewhere. In one particular case, the figure reportedly totaled US$ 700 million kept in Australia.
These aides and nominees are no longer with Jeffrey but some of them, also doing business with the ruling party especially in the timber trade, are believed to be financing his politics “perhaps out of guilt for their past”.
Jeffrey’s jailing for ‘Christian republic’ a typical Dr M red herring to cover money fight?
It’s not known if and how much Mahathir and/or the state could have taken (or ‘fined’) from Jeffrey officially and unofficially. But that doesn’t stop the talk from buzzing around the coffee shops in Sabah.
One clue comes from the US$ 4 billion figure cited by Mahathir from a Price Waterhouse Report on an audit done on the Sabah Foundation in the wake of the fall of the Parti Bersatu Sabah-led Sabah state government in 1994. The Report found the figure as a difference between the actual or higher spot price of timber and the lower longterm contract price.
Mahathir, probably to throw a red herring on him taking Jeffrey’s money, has piously implied that the money was there but went missing during the latter’s stewardship of the Sabah Foundation.
Jeffrey had responded since then, whenever the issue was raised, that Mahathir was telling tall tales. Timber, explained Jeffrey, could not be sold on a long term contract basis at spot prices. The more you buy, the cheaper you get and vice versa. Also, buying forward for delivery in the future was not the same as buying now. Credible or not, that’s been Jeffrey defense all this while.
Taib was ‘luckier’
However, the truth may lie somewhere between Mahathir’s spin and Jeffrey’s explanations. In any case, the Sabah opposition leader has never been charged with corruption of any sort.
But no one in Sabah will deny that Jeffrey was too wealthy for his own good at one time and was now reduced to living on his pension from the Sabah Foundation, Parliament and the state assembly. If he runs into shortfalls, and his former aides and nominees can’t cough up soon enough, he sells a land here, a property there or turns to his elder brother Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the Huguansiou – paramount chief – of Sabah.
If rumors are true, Mahathir would have milked as much if not more from Taib than from Jeffrey for his gravy train. But the former Prime Minister obviously ensured that the Sarawak leader still stayed fabulously wealthy to secure Muslim domination of his Christian Dayak-majority state.
In Jeffrey’s case, Mahathir may have wanted him not only broke, but down and out, so that the Orang Asal as Christians would not have the finances to strike out politically on their own and challenge Putrajaya’s determination to marginalize and disenfranchise them through systematic racism, prejudice and opportunism as evident in internal colonisation policies.
US$ 100 billion went missing during Dr M’s premiership
Jeffrey and Taib may have been just the starters for Mahathir, with the main course consumed throughout the latter’s 22-year tenure as PM.
As Barry Wain’s book, Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times,shows – at least US$ 100 billion went missing during Mahathir’s time as Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003.
Much of these missing monies may be the difference between the actual cost of government procurements, contracts, tenders, permits, concessions, quotas, licences and the like and the amount that they eventually cost the tax payers i.e. double, triple or even up to ten times the actual amount.
More recently, the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) costing the Public Treasury ten times what it should be is a case in point.
Then, there’s the infamous case of Bank Negara ostensibly “losing” US$ 30 billion in the forex market during Mahathir’s premiership, “losing” various other sums on schemes like trying to take over the International Tin Market in London, untold sums on replacing the Chinese role in Malaysia with the Japanese under the notoriously racist Look East Policy and crippling the Public Treasury with the equally discriminative Buy British Last Policy. All these smack of a money trail under the guise of Mahathir’s notorious Malaysia Boleh (Malaysia Can) brand of “patriotism”.
Mahathir & Co, as former Finance Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah once told an audience in Australia not so long ago, was awarding government contracts to themselves. Razaleigh was then accused by the Mahathir administration of “betraying” the country by badmouthing it overseas. It’s seems Mahathir was Malaysia and Malaysia was Mahathir.
Mahathir could only have done what Razaleigh accused him of doing by taking government money for himself through a network of nominees, cronies, fat cats and the like. In that case, he would have been no different from Mubarak and the many other corrupt dictators in the 3rd World who bled their countries dry and saddled them with crippling National Debt Burdens during their tenure in power.
Catching the eye of the CIA?
It’s likely that between Wain’s tell-all book and the Wikipedia list, Mahathir may have resigned from the premiership in 2003 for fear that he would be made to account for his abuse of power and conflict of interest issues in office.
He has been accused of devising a way to leave office but still hold on to the reins of powers from the background to ensure that the long arm of the law never catches up.
The public perception is that the Umno Supreme Council is firmly in Mahathir’s pocket and eating out of his hands while Najib Razak plays at being Prime Minister. Everyone can still recall Mahathir’s long goodbye which he set in motion after shedding tears on national TV and wailing emotionally that he had “failed the Malays and failed to change their mindset”.
It may also be more than coincidence that Wikipedia has managed to compile a listing of Mahathir’s ill-gotten gains in time for the run-up to the 13th General Election. This appears to be the work of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the clearest indication yet from Washington that it wants Mahathir and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) out of the picture for good. This is the classic modus operandi of the US Government i.e. release damaging personal financial information to destroy the credibility of their targets designed for destruction.
Mahathir has so far from all accounts been careful enough to salt away his wealth in countries which are out of reach of the SWIFT and IBAN international banking tracking systems initiated and financed by the United States to track ill-gotten gains, money laundering and financing of global terrorism. Japan is believed to be among the countries where the former Prime Minister has a considerable number of his assets.
Mahathir has huge enough war chest to create a lot of trouble
The bottom line is that Mahathir, given his huge war chest, can continue to influence and dictate the politics of the Malay Nation in Malaysia i.e. the Malay-speaking communities drawn from the Bugis, Javanese, Minang, Acehnese and Indian Muslims in Peninsular Malaysia. He is reportedly financing Perkasa, an extremist fringe organization run by his puppet Ibrahim Ali and has attempted to meddle in the politics of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat as well as Islamic party, PAS.
Already, Mahathir is in control of the huge funds at the disposal of Petronas mostly from Sabah and Sarawak. He has been accused of failing to make a distinction between Petronas funds and his money, at least in the amount poured into his Perdana Leadership Foundation, and he freely uses the corporate jets and yachts belonging to the oil corporation. He has been photographed on the yacht holidaying somewhere in the Mediterranean. Even the Agong, the Malaysian King, doesn’t get this privilege.
Mahathir also has the funds to poke into countries like Palestine and Bosnia-Herzegovina among other places through his Perdana Leadership Foundation – ostensibly to spread his hare-brained theories on leadership and vision-building — and has been suspected by Washington in the past of channeling money for arms to these places, among others. This is something where the Americans will draw the line.