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Friday, 22 July 2016

Bakri Musa : A preliminary observation re 1MDB scandal.



For those who missed the live-streaming of the United States Department of Justice Press Conference on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 in Washington, DC, regarding the 1MDB scandal, the full transcript is available at recapd.com.

A few preliminary observations. First, this civil filing of asset forfeiture is only the first action following an intense and still ongoing investigation. There could be other charges later on, including criminal ones against specific individuals. The presence of senior officials from the criminal divisions of the DOJ and IRS, as well as the top FBI official, at that press 
conference would indicate this. Assets do not become corrupt by themselves; individuals through their corrupt acts created those assets.

Second, this is a civil complaint against the assets that were acquired from alleged corrupt acts perpetrated on 1MDB. Those assets are now legally tied up. There could be two possible responses. At one extreme the owners of those assets would choose not to challenge the complaint at which point those assets become US Government property and will be auctioned off. The US Government would recoup its costs and the people of Malaysia would be entitled to claim the leftover. The other would be for their owners to challenge the order. That would incur substantial legal fees as the filings are in many courts and your adversary is the US Government with its near unlimited resources. And American lawyers are expensive. With those assets frozen, their owners could not liquidate or mortgage them to finance their defense. Knowing that should be satisfaction enough for Malaysians.

A court challenge would be very enlightening. Rest assured that the ensuing trials would reveal much of the truth.

Third, this is by far the largest (in monetary terms) asset seizure in US history. As such those professional prosecutors would not settle for anything less than total victory. Before this,  the largest forfeiture under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative involved the Amsterdam-based Vimpel.com, a telecommunication giant, and its wholly-owned subsidiary in Uzbekistan. That involved top Uzbek officials related to that country’s President.

Fourth was the impressive performance by the Attoney-General and her team at that press conference. It is not simply a matter that she is a seasoned professional prosecutor with a Harvard law degree while her Malaysian counterpart is a failed UMNO operative with a legal qualification from an obscure British Inn of Courts.–Dr.M Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California