Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Enough grounds to charge Jho Low, 1MDB officers with CBT, cheating, say anti-graft activists


BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA
Published: 11 March 2015 9:00 AM

PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli, lodged a police report against 1MDB's chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Halmi and businessman Jho Low, saying police do not have to wait for the national auditors to complete their probe into the debt-laden fund. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, March 11, 2015.

PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli, lodged a police report against 1MDB's chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Halmi and businessman Jho Low, saying police do not have to wait for the national auditors to complete their probe into the debt-laden fund. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, March 11, 2015.
There is enough evidence on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to investigate and charge its officers and business partners with criminal breach of trust (CBT) and cheating without having to wait for the Auditor-General's (A-G) probe to be completed, anti-graft activists said.
They said the numerous leaked documents and emails about 1MDB's joint venture with PetroSaudi International have already been revealed on the Internet, by lawmakers and in media reports, and could be used as the basis of police investigations.
In particular, the joint-venture where US$700 million was allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB to businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, had elements of false representation and negligence which could be factors contributing to CBT, anti-graft campaigner and opposition politician Rafizi Ramli said.
If these were already evident, there was no need to wait for the A-G's probe, Cynthia Gabriel, the co-founder of the Centre for Combating Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said.
“Letting the A-G investigate and pass on the findings to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) would be the procedurally correct and the most systematic.
“But if there is already glaring evidence that charges can be brought against them, then why wait?” Gabriel told The Malaysian Insider.
A-G Tan Sri Ambrin Buang yesterday told the media that the national auditor's inspection of 1MDB's account had started, but did not set a time frame to complete the audit. 
The national auditor's finding on 1MDB is key as it precedes further action by Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), as well as the police's own investigation.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the force's own probe into 1MDB would be contingent on the national auditor finding any "discrepancies or indications of wrongdoing".
But PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli, who yesterday lodged a police report against 1MDB's chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Halmi and Jho Low, said police did not have to wait for the national auditors.
Rafizi, who is Pandan MP, said the leaked documents and emails between Shahrol and Low about the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture in 2009 that allegedly resulted in the siphoning of US$700 million to Low, were enough to charge both men.
The documents, Rafizi said, were enough to see them charged with CBT and for violating the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
The Pandan MP, who is also founder of the National Oversight and Whistleblowers Centre, said there were two possibilities as to how CBT could have occurred in the joint venture.
One, he said, was the intention to divert funds by making a false representation.
The second is negligence on the part of the company’s officers to perform due diligence studies to ensure that 1MDB’s money is correctly spent.
Documents leaked on the Sarawak Report website earlier this month showed how Low purportedly orchestrated the joint venture deal to siphon off US$700 million from 1MDB.
Low allegedly used PetroSaudi as a "front" to enter into the deal with 1MDB and obtain the money as loan repayment – a provision that was worked into the joint venture contract.
The loan was ultimately channelled to a company allegedly owned by Low, called Good Star Limited, Sarawak Report said, and also furnished documents on its website as proof.
Reporting by The Edge Malaysia business weekly also revealed that 1MDB had invested US$1 billion in cash in the joint venture without even knowing what assets 1MDB would be investing in, as PetroSaudi had no wealth or assets of its own.
Rafizi said this showed negligence on Shahrol's part. “An officer can be charged under CBT if his negligence had caused the company to lose money.”
While in Low’s case, Rafizi said the businessman could be investigated for misleading 1MDB for his own profit.
Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akhbar Satar said a person found guilty of CBT could be jailed between two and 20 years, fined and also whipped.
Akhbar said given what has been revealed so far, the alleged misconduct in 1MDB’s management was more of a commercial crime case for the police.
“It does not look like corruption yet. To be fair, we must first wait for the auditor-general to finish his probe before taking action. The A-G’s audit must also be done transparently,” Akhbar said.
Besides CBT, Akhbar said those involved in 1MDB and its business deals were also liable to be charged with cheating if there was enough evidence.
“For example, you make a business offer to someone else saying there is land in another country you want to sell. The guy gives you the money, but there is no land. That is cheating,” said Akhbar, who was formerly a senior officer of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
Those found guilty of cheating can be sentenced to one to 10 years in prison, and be fined or whipped, or both.
“And when there are bribes, prosecutions can be done under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.
“So there are quite a few options under the law to charge people in this (1MDB) case. But to be fair, the audit must be completed first.” – March 11, 2015.     
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/enough-grounds-to-charge-jho-low-1mdb-officers-with-cbt-cheating-say-anti-g#sthash.yGkWHNME.dpuf

No comments: