The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) refers to news articles reporting that the US Department of Justice has returned another RM1.3bn of recovered 1MDB assets to Malaysia.
Given the gravity of the 1MDB cross-border corruption scandal, this move must be lauded, given the diligence of the previous Pakatan Harapan government, and it is definitely a boost in global asset-recovery efforts.
We would like to reiterate that the recovery of stolen assets is a major focus of the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, to which Malaysia has been a party since 2008. The convention provides that stolen and laundered money ought to be returned to countries of origin to benefit their rightful people.
The return of assets has been framed globally as among the most important international cooperation required in combating corruption and must among others demonstrate transparency and accountability at the heart of its operations in both receiving and origin countries. It is a critical remedy for many countries whose economy and livelihoods have been ravaged because of institutionalised corruption.
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And for this we thank the laborious work of the US Department of Justice and the PH government in showing the way towards combating corruption through important negotiations.
C4 Center, however, marks its grave concern with the political changes that have developed over the past few weeks – that the funds are currently in the hands of the unelected Perikatan Nasional coalition government – a government that ruthlessly seized power from the people – the very people who were voted out for their dirty hands in the 1MDB scandal.
Given this disturbing reality we Malaysian are forced to live with, a serious trust deficit must not set in. Thus it is imperative for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his cabinet to show a maximum level of transparency, and this is obligatory.
Questions arise over where the funds should be deposited, eg a trust account as stated by the previous regime, and of course most of all how the money will be used to benefit the people.
Malaysians have that fundamental right to know and to participate in the return of the stolen assets.
The people of Malaysia are the rightful owners of the returned funds.
Cynthia Gabriel is founding director of C4 Center while Fadiah Nadwa Fikri is legal advisor and operations manager