In the most recent 1MDB news, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, is the “central force” of the international graft-scandal, according to Wall Street Journal. As investigators dig deeper into the misappropriation of funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a portrait of Rosmah Mansor as the central force in the international scandal is taking shape.
In interviews with investigators and people close to the wife of deposed prime minister Najib Razak, the financial daily said Rosmah’s pursuit of wealth was a crucial factor in driving Najib’s government deeper into corruption. People close to her believe Rosmah’s desire for wealth was sparked when she was exposed to opulence growing up on the palace grounds of a sultan, despite her parents being middle-class school teachers. Wall Street Journal said it spoke to people who told the paper that Najib had been more focused on obtaining funds for political use rather than personal spending. The report claimed that Najib wanted to resign in 2016 over investigations into 1MDB but Rosmah disagreed and instead tried to stop investigations. The paper also said a source told it that Rosmah had sought the services of American lobbyists to get the Department of Justice to drop its 1MDB investigations.
At the time, the US Department of Justice revealed that it was pursuing 1MDB-linked assets which were allegedly bought with misappropriated funds. “One (source) said Ms Rosmah urged him (Najib) to stand firm, calling the affair a ‘test from Allah,’ when he (Najib) had wanted to resign as Prime Ministerand that she helped lead efforts to block investigations in Malaysia. “Last year, Ms Rosmah helped hire American lobbyists to urge the US Department of Justice to drop its probes of 1MDB, said a person familiar with the outreach. “This person said Ms Rosmah dialled into one meeting between the lobbyists and Malaysia’s ambassador to the US,” read the report. According to WSJ, Rosmah did not respond to their requests for an interview while her lawyer declined to comment for the article.
The WSJ, again citing sources, said when domestic investigations on 1MDB began making progress in 2015, Rosmah had pushed the Prime Minister’s Office to state it was in line with Najib’s “legacy family assets”. This was followed by a response from Najib’s four brothers who expressed concern over that statement on inheritance. “Ms Rosmah reacted angrily, claiming the brothers would bring down the prime minister, said one family member,” reported WSJ. Speaking at an event in Najib’s parliament stronghold of Pekan just three days before the May 9 general election, Rosmah denied that she was controlling her husband. “I want to tell you, I have never interfered with his business, especially those relating to the government. I don’t understand why people still connect me with my husband’s duties” she said.
Rosmah has maintained in a recent autobiography that her jewellery and handbags were purchased with her own money. But she had a large collection of diamonds, a businessman had told WSJ, of which one alone was worth US$27 million (RM108 million). WSJ also looked at how Rosmah came to now Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, whose family owned property near Najib’s residence in London. Low helped Najib set up 1MDB in 2009. The US Department of Justice is investigating US$4.5 billion stolen from 1MDB to purchase assets that include luxury properties in the US, a private jet and a film production company headed by Rosmah’s son from her first marriage. It is trying to seize nearly US$2 billion of these assets in civil suits but has sought to suspend these proceedings to focus a criminal investigation.
In Malaysia, the new Pakatan Harapan government has reopened investigations into Najib, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing. A week after the new government was voted in, raids on properties linked to Najib in Kuala Lumpur yielded RM114 million cash, jewellery, watches and 284 luxury handbags. It still not known if Rosmah had personally directed the complex transactions that diverted funds from 1MDB. The anti-corruption authority has both hers and Najib’s statements. The couple is also barred from travelling overseas. – June 26, 2018.