Last week has seen the discourse on 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) intensify around the subject of the seizure on Jho Low’s luxury yacht ‘Equanimity’ in a joint-effort action by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Indonesian police force. While international media has gone into a frenzy to cover this new development in 1MDB money laundering probes around the world, Malaysian authorities instead have arbitrarily silenced voices who are raising questions on 1MDB and corruption.
In Switzerland, CHF 104 million (approximately RM 430 million) has been frozen while court proceedings are still ongoing against Swiss banks complicit in laundering 1MDB funds. We have received news from Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer that the money has already been deposited in the Swiss Federal Treasury as there were no claimants.
However, next week, Swiss Parliamentarians allied in this cause are tabling a motion in the Swiss Parliament calling for at least a portion of the money to be sent back to the country of origin.
The Malaysian Civil Society initiative was announced in November 2017, calling on the Swiss Federal Ministry of Finance and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to return the funds seized by Swiss authorities to Malaysians who are the rightful beneficiaries via an independent trust fund.
This proposal suggests that it is possible for the money be returned to Malaysia via a trust fund modelled after the Bota Foundation in Kazakhstan. If the funds are to be returned, it should be managed by an independent body represented by different groups and employ transparent processes; and is accountable to the public on how these funds will be distributed back to the people.
Without any action by the government and its many limbs to persecute the culprits who enabled and benefitted from money laundering stolen 1MDB funds, it is not a viable option for the funds to be returned to the very leaders who are part of a flawed system which allowed for such greed and rampant corruption to persist. Indeed, the attitude the government in regards to allegations of corruption and money laundering via 1MDB has hardly been above reproach.
Beginning with the removal of the previous Attorney General (AG) from office, to the current AG granting Prime Minister Najib Razak impunity, the democratic institutions meant to safeguard public interest such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the courts have failed to respond to the issue. The Swiss Attorney-General’s request for cooperation in regards to the investigation of 1MDB in April 2017 was met with silence from the government. Attempts to take the matter to court and discuss it at parliament has also been reciprocated with high-handed dismissiveness.
Former Batu Kawan UMNO Deputy Chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan was also detained under Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) for suspicion of attempting to ‘sabotage the economy’ after lobbying foreign governments to put pressure on Malaysia by way of addressing the allegations of corruption surrounding 1MDB.
C4 Center and BERSIH 2.0 urge the Members of Parliament (MPs) who will be debating the motion in the Swiss Parliament next week to consider the proposal put forth: to return a portion of the stolen funds who happened to be laundered in Switzerland back to the rightful beneficiaries, the people of Malaysia.
Jointly issued by:
Center to Combat Cronyism and Corruption (C4 Center)
The Coalition For Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0)