Unless Bank Negara re-opens investigations into possible money laundering activities linked to 1MDB, its credibility as well as that of its new governor is at stake, warned Tony Pua.
The Petaling Jaya Utara MP said Bank Negara risked becoming an international laughing stock for only slapping 1MDB with an administrative penalty.
He pointed out that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has already claimed that company officers and Malaysian officials have colluded to scam and launder more than US$3.5 billion from the company.
Yesterday, Bank Negara governor Muhammad Ibrahim announced that there would be no re-opening of investigations against 1MDB as the central bank had already taken all necessary action against the state investment fund.
“This single announcement has in one swift blow, destroyed all the credibility BNM painstakingly accumulated over the past two decades,” said Pua in a statement today.
The MP noted that the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing (Amendment) Act 2013 (Amlatfa) states that any person is deemed to have committed an offence if he or she “acquires, receives, possesses, disguises, transfers, converts, exchanges, carries, disposes of, or uses proceeds of an unlawful activity” or “removes from or brings into Malaysia, proceeds of an unlawful activity”.
Pua argued that Bank Negara, being the competent authority under the Amlatfa, cannot abdicate from its responsibility to commence investigations into any and all suspicious transactions for all relevant offences under the Act.
And what made it worse, said Pua, was that the DOJ specified that a significant part of the laundered funds found its way into the Malaysian banking system.
“In particular, the charges established that US$731 million was deposited into the personal bank account of a ‘Malaysian Official One’ (MO1) between 2011 and 2013.
“And the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Rahman Dahlan, acknowledged that only an idiot would not know that MO1 refers to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak,” he said.
Pua added it is also an offence when one “conceals, disguises or impedes the establishment of the true nature, origin, location, movement, disposition, title of, rights with respect to, or ownership of, proceeds of an unlawful activity”.
He said Najib is in danger of being seen as having received illicit funds, and trying to conceal the transfers by saying that it is a “donation” from an unnamed Arab donor.
“Has Najib been investigated for the multi-billion ringgit money laundering scam which has been highlighted by the US DOJ?” Pua asked.
“As far as we are aware, based on public announcements by BNM, 1MDB has only been investigated for improper disclosure to the central bank for its fund transfers overseas.”
He added that a probe for elements of a money laundering conspiracy involving top 1MDB officials and the prime minister, has never been carried out.
Pua said that the lack of a transparent and competent investigation on Najib’s ‘donation’ and 1MDB’s billions, may make it seem like the PM is immune to Bank Negara’s money laundering investigations.
Indeed, it may make Muhammad seem like he has failed to restore the integrity and protect the sanctity of Malaysia’s financial system from money laundering activities, he said.
Pua argued that unless an investigation is opened and concluded transparently, the rakyat may wonder if there is something amiss regarding Bank Negara’s seeming inaction.
Last month the DOJ filed asset forfeiture suits against assets it claimed were bought from monies stolen from 1MDB. This is in addition to financial authorities in several other countries investigating 1MDB for alleged money laundering.
In Malaysia however, 1MDB was only accused of failure to comply with Bank Negara directives on offshore investments and weaknesses, and mismanagement by its board of directors and company officers.
Najib, who was 1MDB advisory board chairperson, from whom clearance for all company decisions was needed, has denied wrongdoing, or taking money for personal gain, and claimed ignorance of any impropriety in the company.
Najib was also cleared by attorney-general Mohamad Apandi Ali over billions in donations deposited into his personal account, which was explained as a gift from a Saudi prince with no strings attached.