What do Malaysians think of Jho Low

Swiss fingers in Malaysian corruption scandal

The government in Kuala Lumpur is pulling out all the stops to cover up the country's largest corruption case. Singapore has blocked bank accounts. A Swiss man imprisoned in Bangkok is a key witness.

In connection with the ongoing investigation into the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia, the Singapore authorities have blocked two accounts in a Swiss private bank. According to the police, it is about investigating suspected money laundering. There has been close contact for some time between the Singaporean authorities and the committees of inquiry in Kuala Lumpur, which are dealing with the debt hole in the sovereign wealth fund and the suspicious transfers of millions in favor of the Malaysian Prime Minister Razak Najib. A request for clarification to the address of the Malaysian central bank bears the signature of the head of the Singapore Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office, Chua Jia Leng.

A political time bomb

It is not officially known exactly which financial institution it is with which accounts were frozen. It is known, however, that $ 1.1 billion, which was transferred from the Cayman Islands to an account at the Swiss BSI Bank in Singapore, is currently the focus of the investigation. The money or assets come from the environment of the 33-year-old Malaysian real estate investor Jho Low. He is a close friend of the Malaysian head of government, whom he assisted in setting up the 1MDB state fund in 2009; 1MDB is currently sitting on a mountain of debt equivalent to around $ 11 billion.

The widening of the scandal should not be underestimated. It's not just about the (presumably) biggest corruption scandal in Malaysian history and a sovereign wealth fund whose business activities and connections to the Arab world appeared dubious from the start. The revelations, which first came to the public through the “Sarawak Report” and later via the “Wall Street Journal”, are so burdening Prime Minister Razak Najib that his otherwise loyal ruling party Umno should look for an alternative.

PetroSaudi pays billion

The origin of the $ 1.1 billion initially points to Saudi Arabia. According to reliable information, the Saudi Arabia-based oil and gas company PetroSaudi International, which entered into a joint venture with the recently founded 1MDB on September 28, 2009, received the amount or assets of Rin. 3.78 billion just under $ 1 billion, moved to a company controlled by Jho Low. The way in which this sum flowed via the Cayman Islands to the BSI accounts in Singapore, where Low maintains at least two accounts, is the subject of clarification.

In this context, two sensational property purchases by Jho Low in Singapore are currently being examined. The acquisition of two apartments in TwentyOne Angullia Park for 54 million sing. $ raised eyebrows even in Singapore and set new standards on the Orchard Mile. The June 2013 purchase date is special in that elections were held in Malaysia in May 2013. Two months earlier, in March, a total of $ 681 million had been transferred in two tranches to Prime Minister Najib's private account at AmBank Islamic in Kuala Lumpur. Najib remains silent about the whereabouts of this sum and the reason for the money transfer. According to unconfirmed reports, this was a powerful tool in the election campaign, which - in retrospect - was probably decisive for Najib's future, as his party was only just able to secure a parliamentary majority; this despite the fact that the opposition of Anwar Ibrahim, who has since been arrested again, was able to win a majority for the first time. Two years later, however, it looks more as if Najib has gambled away his future, honor and reputation of the party.

At this point it should be added that a second Swiss bank in Singapore has come into the focus of investigators because of Najib: It is the Falcon Private Bank, located on Zurich's Pelikanstrasse, and its branch in Singapore. The bank invokes banking secrecy, but confirms that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) filed a so-called Request for Information on July 2, 2015. According to documents, the $ 681 million in question on Najib's account at AmBank was transferred by the Singapore-based Falcon Private Bank. Falcon Private Bank is owned by the International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic), the sovereign wealth fund owned by the Abu Dhabi government. This sovereign wealth fund and the government of Abu Dhabi, in turn, are now keeping 1MDB afloat with a supply of liquidity.

Swiss informant in custody

PetroSaudi International also remains closely linked to the 1MDB scandal. First, the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund invested heavily in this company in 2010. Second, a month ago a Swiss man was arrested in Thailand who was accused of trying to capitalize on sensitive information. The 49-year-old former PetroSaudi executive is said to have blackmailed his former employer with incriminating material. Because the relevant contacts took place in Bangkok, among other places, a Thai criminal offense appears to have been met. The Swiss, who is now regarded as a key witness in the case, faces up to seven years in prison.

Thousands of e-mails, which were deposited with the “Sarawak Report” and are also in the possession of the Malaysian business paper “Edge Financial Daily”, are supposed to prove that via PetroSaudi money from the sovereign wealth fund amounting to $ 1.83 billion has been misused have been. The Malaysian government reacted to the revelations in its own way: on Friday it revoked the license of the weekly newspaper “The Edge Weekly” and “Edge Financial Daily”. This report, the editors of the two newspapers wrote prophetically, could be their last. The Sarawak Report website has been blocked since Wednesday.