Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul - The Curious Case of Dato' Nazri Aziz's Statement

So to Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz, a robber who donates some of his ill-gotten wealth to "charity" means that money isn’t lost.

Malaysians were left shaking their heads in disbelief when Tourism Minister, Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz legitimized “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

This came after The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has exposed the fact that companies which benefited from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)’s generous acquisition offers have separately contributed to a “charity” controlled by the Prime Minister. The leading international financial paper further claimed that some of these donations were then channel to activities related to Barisan Nasional election campaigns.

According to Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz, if the report is true, this means the money spent before GE13 was not wrong. He even thanked WSJ for setting the record straight with its report.

"If the report carried by WSJ is proven true, then it is good, as it shows the money was not lost. Then why do you (critics) say the money is lost? What's wrong with (Finance Ministry wholly-owned 1MDB's) money being spent on the people?" he told Malaysiakini yesterday.

"This wasn't misappropriation of funds. This shows we did not squander the money," he added, reiterating that it was used for the rakyat.

It was an “OMG” moment as we pondered if Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz just legitimized the act of a robber, if part of his ill-gotten wealth is donated to charity.

If the WSJ is indeed correct in its report, it means that 1MDB had outrageously overpaid Genting Berhad for the latter’s power plants. The transaction allowed Genting to make a reported extraordinary profit of RM1.9 billion on a mere RM400 million of assets. After the acquisition, the Genting group of companies made a total of RM190 million or 10% of its profit to charities, of which Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia (YR1M) received at least RM25 million according to WSJ.

Hence, Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz must answer if just because up to RM190 million out of RM1.9 billion of extraordinary profits went to “charities”, it is perfectly alright for 1MDB to massively overpay for its assets?

Worse, there is nothing in the Companies Commission (SSM) documents pertaining to YR1M, a company limited by guarantee, is in anyway related to the Government. Instead, YR1M looks like a private vehicle controlled entirely by the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak.

If so, why should these allegedly “charitable” deeds be handed out by this private vehicle and not directly and transparently by the Government? What’s more, the WSJ further alleged that the YR1M funds were utilised to pay for Barisan Nasional (BN) election campaign expenses and handouts. Surely, ill-gotten proceeds from the Government cannot be justified by its use for BN and the Prime Minister’s private political interests?

Now, even if against all ethical standards, “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is legit as argued by Dato’ Seri Nazri Aziz, it does not in anyway explain the money 1MDB “lost”. 1MDB has been criticised to have lost anything between RM15 billion to RM25 billion out of its RM25 billion debt. The RM190 million “donation” by Genting barely explains 1.3% of the total missing funds. Therefore, the Tourism Minister was extremely disingenuous to claim that the WSJ report proved that 1MDB’s funds did not go missing.

Indeed, based on the above, the Prime Minister, Genting Berhad, 1MDB and YR1M must not only be investigated by the Election Commission for committing electoral fraud as demanded by Bersih. They must be investigated by both the Police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), for possible embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, criminal breach of trust as well as corrupt practices.

Tony Pua

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