Home Coalitions Clean and Fair Elections Return 1MDB stolen funds, assets to people of Malaysia

Return 1MDB stolen funds, assets to people of Malaysia

The Equanimity - Photograph: shipspotting.com

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In the wake of the seizure of Jho Low’s yacht ‘Equanimity’ worth almost RM1bn, the Coalition for Clean and fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) reiterates our demand for frozen assets resulting from illegal gains through money laundering of siphoned 1MDB funds overseas to be returned to the people of Malaysia via a trust fund.

It is high time that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DoJ) follow through the investigation by pressing criminal charges against named perpetrators so that they can no longer evade justice under the veil of silence and impunity.

While official accounts of Malaysian Official 1 (MO1) listed in the DoJ suit remains unnamed, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Rahman Dahlan has on several occasions announced that MO1 is none other than Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Dubbed “kleptocracy at its worst” during the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) last year, 1MDB chairman Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, who also holds the position of secretary general of the Treasury under the Ministry of Finance Inc, said that 1MDB would cease all operations and shut down once all the debts owed to investors are paid in full.

Closing 1MDB without recovering large sums of funds meant to further develop the nation would be tantamount to gross negligence and dereliction of responsibility and accountability. As 1MDB is one of the many allegations and investigations of corruption and dubious flows of funds concerning public money, it must be dealt with swiftly to mitigate adverse effects to the country’s economy.

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In November last year, Bersih 2.0, the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Centre) and 110 endorsing Malaysian NGOs, in partnership with the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) and Global Bersih, both of which are based in Switzerland and are assisting through Swiss-based lobbying, announced an initiative to return the funds seized by Swiss authorities to Malaysians, who are the rightful beneficiaries.

The civil society proposal, jointly anchored domestically by C4 Centre and Bersih 2.0, suggests that it is possible for the money to 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 should be accountable to the public as to how the funds are distributed back to the people.

Without any action by the government and its many limbs to prosecute the culprits who enabled and benefited from the money laundering of stolen 1MDB funds, it is not a viable option for the funds to be returned to the leaders who are part of a flawed system, which allowed for such greed and rampant corruption.

Globally, there is an urgent need to show commitment and leadership to end money laundering, which gravely affects countries, citizens and the poor.

The fact that there are several investigations in relation to 1MDB that are currently ongoing in seven countries overseas – while Malaysian investigation and anti-graft enforcement continues to turn a blind eye – proves that international cooperation is key in the fight against money laundering and corruption.

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Bersih 2.0 steering committee

Note: The Bota Foundation

Set up in 2007 as a vehicle to transmit laundered assets to Kazakhstan citizens, the Bota Foundation disbursed its money through three programmes: a direct cash transfer programme, which gave money upon fulfilling conditions such as sending children to pre-school; a social service programme which gave medium-sized grants to local NGOs; and, a tuition assistance programme, which gave scholarships to Kazakhstani youth. – Sources

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