PM Najib's Cabinet Reshuffling (Temporarily) Kills PAC's 1MDB Probe

PM Najib's move dealt a massive blow to both the investigations into 1MDB by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the special task force.

Cover image via Malaysiakini

Rebranded committee will take over the role of Special Task Force, but it will not probe 1MDB

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) announced today the line-up of an eight-agency task force that includes national graftbusters, saying the team will investigate revenue losses but not have anything to do with debt-riddled state company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The AGC also said the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team (NRRET) would take over the role of the previous Special Task Force, which was probing 1MDB matters, and is not “new” but a rebranding of the previous task force with the same aims, except that it won’t probe 1MDB.

“NRRET is not in any way involved with any investigations involving 1MDB and its related companies,” it said in a statement.

It said the task force has been in place since 2011.

DAP's Tony Pua is demanding for an explanation on the decision to stop 1MDB probe

DAP's Tony Pua

Image via The Rakyat Post

The new Attorney-General must explain why the newly renamed special Task Force will not be investigating the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) or its related companies.

The people deserve the right to know why investigations into 1MDB and its related companies which were carried out by the previous special Task Force have been stopped, said Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua.

Earlier on 16 July 2015, he reminded, the special Task Force had reiterated that it “will conduct the investigations in relation to the 1MDB case in a transparent, independent and professional manner”. The special Task Force had also asked “all parties to place their trust and confidence in it to conduct the investigations”.

Pua added that "the Executive is blatantly trying to stop all investigations into the RM42 billion scandal involving the Government’s wholly-owned subsidiary"

Failure to explain its inexplicable decision to stop all investigations into 1MDB, Pua warned, will render the new AG a complete puppet of the Prime Minister.

“His complicity in covering the single largest financial scandal in the country will also make him the worst and most irresponsible AG in the history of Malaysia less than 2 months into his term.”

Pua also said the latest announcement by the AGC has made it clear to all Malaysians that the Executive is blatantly trying to stop all investigations into 1MDB.

16 AUGUST: Task force on Najib's RM2.6 billion is 'illegal', claims Abdul Rahman

Image via TMI

BN strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan has described the special task force investigating the RM2.6 billion deposits into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's personal bank accounts as "illegal".

"In the first place the task force was illegally constituted. They were not supposed to be investigating the PM or any individual for that matter.

The original task force was set up to look at the overall policy of the banking system such as money laundering, the illicit flow of funds, the illegal use of money changers to move money in and out of the country, illegal money transactions involving terrorism and drug business and the loopholes in the system."

"That is why the attorney-general, Bank Negara, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police were there," he said in an interview with The Star Online. Abdul Rahman said the attorney-general should not have gotten involved, in the interest of the separation of powers.

The special task force was immediately disbanded after attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail (photo) was abruptly removed from office and replaced with Mohamed Apandi Ali. Despite the demise of the special task force, Abdul Rahman, who is also a federal minister, insisted that investigation could still go on.

"The police, MACC, and Bank Negara can conduct their own individual investigations without having that task force. That is not a problem. But the task force doesn’t have the mandate from the Cabinet. There is no executive order from the Cabinet to constitute that task force to investigate that particular issue."

Abdul Rahman also reiterated the official line that Abdul Gani was removed as attorney-general due to health reasons.

"The official response is that he was not well and on dialysis three times a week. Even in my ministry I can tell you there are noticeable delays in getting responses from the Attorney-General's Chambers," he was quoted as saying.

Likewise, Abdul Rahman said the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which investigation into 1MDB have also been scuttled after Najib co-opted four of its members in the government, can resume its probe after the appointment of new members in October.

10 AUGUST: Transfer order to Prime Minister's Department for MACC duo cancelled

Datuk Bahri Mohamad Zin/ Datuk Rohaizad Yaakob

Image via The Star/The Malay Mail

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission directors Datuk Bahri Mohamad Zin and Datuk Rohaizad Yaakob will not be transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department. The duo will be remain at the commission said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.

Both the MACC officers will not be transferred and remain in their current position,” said Shahidan.

The decision was made after a meeting between the commission and Government chief secretary Tan Sri Ali Hamsa and Public Service’s Department director-general Tan Sri Zabidi Zainal in Putrajaya on Monday morning.

After listening to their explanation on their action of making media statement, I have decided to cancel their transfers to the Prime Minister's Department and resume their original duties in MACC effective today," said Ali Hamsa.

6 AUGUST: C4 is calling for other authorities to get their "hands off MACC"

The Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4), expressing regret at the ongoing police harassment of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), has called for the arrests and raids to stop immediately. “The MACC has the monumental task to seek and arrive at the truth.”

Hands off the MACC, reiterated C4 Executive Director Cynthia Gabriel in a statement. “The actions of the police have serious repercussions. It’s tantamount to obstruction of duties and this could hamper important investigations from progressing further.”

C4 stands by the MACC during these dark times in our country’s history and hold faith that the commission will be steadfast and resilient in their mission, continued Gabriel. “We owe this to our nation, and to our future generations.”

The time is now, she said, for MACC to prove its mettle. “Let us give strength to our public institutions to save Malaysia.”

4 AUGUST: 1MDB probe deliberately sabotaged, alleges PAC deputy chief

Dr Tan Seng Giaw

Image via Astro Awani

Parliament's Public Accounts Committee's (PAC) highly anticipated inquiry into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was "deliberately sabotaged", its deputy chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw said, after losing key members ahead of this week's grilling of former and current executives of the debt-ridden state investor.

"PAC has been deliberately suspended and we already anticipated the 1MDB people would not turn up. We have anticipated the whole thing to be deliberately sabotaged," Dr Tan said.

1MDB former CEOs Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman together with 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy were to appear before the 13-member committee this month. PAC hearing had been scheduled for Aug 4, 5, 6,17 and 18 as well as Sept 8 and 10.

PAC chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had announced that he will relinquish his position as the committee chairman following his appointment as Deputy Home Minister. Apart from Nur Jazlan, other PAC members who have been appointed into the Cabinet are Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau.

30 JULY: The 1MDB probes should remain independent and free from interference, MACC says

MACC chief Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed.

Image via The Malay Mail

The five independent oversight panels of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said the 1Malaysia Development Bhd investigations should remain “independent and free from interference”.

In a joint statement yesterday, the five panels reiterated that the four agencies that make up the special taskforce investigating 1MDB – the Attorney-General’s Chambers, police, Bank Negara Malaysia and MACC – should be given “the latitude to conduct the investigations without fear or favour”.

"In this matter, we strongly feel it is highly pertinent to ensure the integrity of MACC as an independent anti-corruption commission is maintained and not compromised," read their joint statement today.

The statement followed Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's cabinet reshuffle and the removal of Abdul Gani Patail as attorney-general, and the appointment of four Public Accounts Committee (PAC) members including its chairperson, to ministerial and deputy ministerial positions.

The move ignited speculation that it was designed to derail probes into the 1MDB issue.

Nevertheless, the five panels - which play an advisory role to the MACC - assured that the MACC would facilitate and expedite an “independent, transparent and professional investigation without the pressure and intervention from any party”, and bring any wrongdoers to justice.

The MACC is a part of the special taskforce investigating 1MDB together with the Royal Malaysian Police and Bank Negara Malaysia, while the Attorney-General’s Chambers is in charge of prosecuting those implicated in the investigations.

The panels also called for findings to made public as soon as possible, and stressed that it was important to ensure that the integrity of the MACC as an independent anti-corruption commission was not compromised.

Meanwhile, the panels urged the newly minted attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali to give clear updates on the developments of the 1MDB investigation when providing legal advice and guidance to the special taskforce.

This is to prevent ‘negative perceptions’ on the agencies involved in the taskforce, it said.

“This is important in view of the fact that the MACC’s task is focused only on issues related to SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB, while the 1MDB is being investigated by the other bodies,” it added.

SRC International has since been taken over by the Ministry of Finance.

On 28 July, PM Najib appointed four of the Public Accounts Committee's (PAC) members into the Cabinet in a reshuffle announced today. The PAC members were in the middle of probing into the debt-laden 1MDB scandal. The move is a blow to both the investigations into 1MDB by the PAC and the special task force.

On the PAC front, the committee's chairperson Nur Jazlan Mohamed was appointed as deputy home minister, while three other PAC members were also appointed to the government. This would mean that Nur Jazlan can no longer helm the bipartisan PAC, which is also investigating allegations surrounding 1MDB.

Nur Jazlan Mohamed.

Image via The Malay Mail

Nur Jazlan said that several other Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs who were also appointed as deputy ministers ― Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican (deputy foreign affairs minister), Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin (tourism and culture deputy minister) and Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau ― must also vacate their positions in the PAC.

“I have to step down. All (of us who were appointed) have to step down,” he told Malay Mail Online. Nur Jazlan also confirmed that this meant that the ongoing PAC probe on 1MDB would be affected.

“It would have to be temporarily halted. We will have to wait until the next Parliament sitting to decide on the new PAC chief to be appointed, so this means PAC investigations halted until then,” he added.

Before this, the bipartisan PAC committee had 13 members, comprising eight from BN and five from the opposition bench

With the Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today, there is an urgent need to replace the four members as the PAC is scheduled to resume its inquiry into 1MDB next week. By parliamentary convention, MPs appointed to the government administration cannot be sitting members of PAC.

Prior to the appointments, the PAC had scheduled 4 and 5 August to question current and former top 1MDB executives as part of their investigation into the state-owned firm's dealings

Prior to the appointments, the PAC had scheduled August 4 and 5 to question 1MDB chief executive Arul Kanda Kandasamy and his predecessor, Datuk Shahrul Ibrahim Halmi as part of their investigation into the state-owned firm’s dealings.

The committee will also recall 1MDB’s then-auditors Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young along with several other 1MDB executives and directors of the company’s subsidiaries for further questioning in September to answer discrepancies raised by the Auditor-General’s interim report on the firm.

As noted by Malaysiakini, Nur Jazlan was often seen as uncompromising with regard to the PAC investigation and has on numerous occasions defended fellow PAC member and DAP lawmaker Tony Pua amidst attacks

Pua has been criticised for targeting 1MDB and calls have rung out for him to resign on grounds that he has not been impartial on the matter.

However, Nur Jazlan did not state whether he was accepting the appointment. Previously, he had reportedly said that he would prefer to oversee the committee's 1MDB probe to its conclusion before taking on any cabinet position.

Furthermore, the sacking of Abdul Gani also crippled a separate investigation into 1MDB, led by the special task force. Among others, the task force was probing claims that RM2.6 billion was deposited into Najib's private bank accounts.

Image via The Star

The removal of Abdul Gani Patail as attorney-general as well as the cabinet reshuffle points in the direction of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak consolidating his position amidst the raging 1MDB imbroglio.

Though it was claimed that Gani'sterm in office expired due to "health problems", the former AG himself appeared to be in the dark about the matter.

Abdul Gani was only due to retire in October. He was replaced by former federal court judge Mohamad Apandi Ali. Abdul Gani had helped coordinate the legal aspect for the special task force, which comprises the police, Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission and Bank Negara.

The special task force's investigation wil be rendered moot if the new attorney-general refuses to proceed with the case as he is the sole person that controls all prosecution powers.

Meanwhile, Najib not only crippled both investigations into 1MDB but also purged those who criticised his handling of 1MDB including Deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin and Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal

Muhyiddin has been a vocal critic of the 1MDB issue and even revealed how the prime minister ignored his advice on the matter.

Several names included in the new line-up are known to be Najib's supporters, including Salleh Said Keruak, who has been appointed as the new communication and multimedia minister. Salleh, who is the Sabah state assembly speaker, has consistently defended Najib on his blog.

It is yet to be seen, though, how UMNO would react to PM Najib's apparent move to strengthen his position in the government

Image via Malaysiakini

After all, Muhyiddin is the party deputy president and commands a strong support base. More importantly, what would former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Najib's archnemesis, do next?