Wising up to a Billion Dollar Whale of a tale


 

Wising up to a whale of a tale

Once upon a time, Malaysians were enchanted with Jho Lows champagne lifestyle and proud that he had friends in high places. We now know better.

IF a poll was conducted to ask Malaysians to name their 10 most hated people, Low Taek Jho – also known as Jho Low – would surely be in the top five, if not three.

There has been a quick succession of books on the 1Malaysia Dev­elopment Bhd (1MDB) saga and in the one by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Billion Dollar Whale, Low is the central villainous character.

Yet for a brief shining moment, this man was the pride of his home state and the nation.

Then Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng was reported as saying that he was proud to note the accomplishments of overseas Pen­angites, including this particularly “well-connected” fellow.

That was back in July 2010 when a mysterious Malaysian man of means started hitting the headlines for partying with the likes of Paris Hilton, and counted actors Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Usher as his good friends.

When Hilton – the glamour party girl before the Kardashians overtook her – was detained by drug enforcement officers in Paris in 2010, she was reportedly travelling with “personalities close to power in Malay­sia”, Low being identified as one of them.

In just three months, his champagne-infused big spending ways – US$50,000 (RM206,800) or US$60,000 (RM248,190) a pop – set New York’s nightlife scene on fire and caught the attention of the US media. And that was how Low became famous.

Oh wait! He’s Malaysian, not some little emperor from Shanghai or Shen­zhen, so we puffed up with pride at the success of one of our own.

Somehow, the ability to party with the rich and famous became a yardstick for success. The assumption was that Low must have done something great to be so filthy rich and make such “friends”.

Low, then 28, became a subject of intense curiosity that Malaysian and foreign media wanted to know.

Then The Star landed an exclusive interview with him. The two hours with him provided enough fodder for stories spread over two days on July 29 and 30, 2010.

The interview covered topics like his Arab childhood friends and investors whom he said were the real big spenders, how he made his first million when he was just 20 and his expertise in setting up sovereign wealth funds.

Yes, we were pretty pleased with ourselves for beating the competition in getting Low to speak.

The interview was picked up by other newspapers and portals locally, regionally and internationally.

The Star took efforts to provide Low’s personal details like his age, birthplace, education and languages spoken.

What I also found amusing was that we also gave his height (1.7m) and his weight (88kg), which is not common for such interviews. That was probably our nice way of indicating how chubby he was.

The stories were positive pieces, painting Low as a successful role model. Of course, at that time, no one suspected that he was the mastermind behind the world’s biggest kleptocracy.

We were simply dazzled by his partying playboy high life and accepted in good faith all his claims on why he was successful: he went to the right schools, from Chung Ling to Wharton School of Business, made well-connected, influential friends (especially Arab royals) and got a great financial start.

As The Star reported: “At the age of 20, (he) started an investment company called The Wynton Group with US$25mil (RM103.4mil) from family and South-East Asian and Middle Eastern friends. The investment company in which he owns a stake is now worth in excess of US$1bil (RM4.1bil).”

Penang businessman Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, a close family friend, described Low as a very bright person who respected his elders.

He was also “an active person, has a corporate brain and his public relations skills are equally good. He’s also quite a fast eater.

“I watched him grow up since he was a kid and I knew he was brilliant, but I never thought he would be so successful,” said Tan.

A reader who was so impressed by the Star exclusive blogged about his son having studied in Harrow in Bangkok and opined: “He (the son) is certainly no Jho Low, but I hope he can learn the positives from Jho’s life and work hard and be successful.”

Well, we now know better how Low operated and whose money he was spending on his celebrity friends and more.

From the man with the Midas touch, he has become the embarrassment no famous person wants to touch. I doubt Hilton or Usher takes his calls anymore. He is a fugitive on the lam, hunted by governments around the globe.

Much as he is furiously claiming innocence, he is indeed our billion-dollar whale. The whale is a metaphor in business, meaning to land large accounts that can transform a small company into a major player.

A whale can also mean a businessman who is close to a country’s regime, is protected by the state and receives government contracts and large bank loans without any collateral, as explained in the book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty.

The maddening fact is this portly plunderer is hard to find. He apparently has multiple passports, including one from St Kitts and Nevis.

It’s very possible he is no longer 88kg. He could be thinner or fatter – depending on whether stress makes him eat even more and faster – or had plastic surgery, grown or lost his hair, but he should still be 1.7m tall, unless he wears hidden heels in his shoes.

Our government has said it is not sure where he’s hiding, but with Malaysians in just about every corner of the world, can we not somehow tap into this vast network? Even a whale must surface for air somehow, somewhere.

What really got my goat was what he glibly said in the Star interview: “Ultimately, I am Malaysian. I am one who does not forget my country and I think there is a lot we can do for Malaysia. But when you build the trust of investors, you need to deliver what you promised.

“For me, we all work very hard. Of course, we have a disadvantage where at our age, people may perceive it differently. At the end of the day, I handle investors’ money prudently. I generate returns for them.”

And this: “I am not an excessive person. Excessiveness with alcohol is just not me.”

No, not in alcohol but his name is now synonymous with excessiveness in luxury acquisitions.

Oh, where’s Capt Ahab when we need him?

Aunty wants to remind all of us that truly, all that glitters is not gold. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my

Credit:  June H. L Wong, So aunty, so what?

 

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Let me be clear, I am innocent: Jho Low

 

Goldman Lunch at Taste Paradise Sets Table for 1MDB Money Probe

 

Malaysia can’t extradite Jho Low, key people in 1MDB saga

 

 

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Let me be clear, I am innocent: Jho Low


https://youtu.be/AngdNA3mtgw

Having his say: A screengrap of www.jho-low.com website which contained the letter

Rogue businessman insists he is not guilty via letter on personal website

 

PETALING JAYA – Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho has proclaimed his innocence over allegations related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in a signed letter uploaded to his personal website.

Low, also known as Jho Low, admitted that in hindsight, he might have done things differently.

“But any mistakes I made do not amount to the sweepingly broad and destructive allegations being made against me.

“Let me be clear: I am innocent,” Low wrote.

The website, www.jho-low.com, also contains legal documents related to the 1MDB case, news media articles on him and 1MDB as well as statements by Low’s lawyers.

A notice on the website said that jho-low.com was created on behalf of Low through his legal counsel to provide information to the public.

A search on the Internet archive shows that the website has been updated since 2015 but until recently only contained general information on Low.

According to the WHOIS database, jho-low.com was created on June 2, 2014.

Yesterday, the link to the website was shared extensively on social media, after the undated letter was posted.

“I only ask that everyone – courts, prosecutors, and the general public – keep an open mind until all of the evidence comes to light,” Low wrote in the letter.

The financier wrote that for the past several years, he had been subjected to a series of allegations around the globe in relation to the operations of 1MDB.

He said many of the allegations had originated from blog posts, “improper” leaks from governmental agencies around the world, or unproven allegations filed in court, where he had never been afforded an opportunity to set the record straight.

“I have been paraded in effigy through the streets of Kuala Lumpur, and photographs from my younger days plastered in tabloids across the globe.

“It has become clear that there is no platform where objective information can be presented regarding this issue – and no jurisdiction that hasn’t been poisoned by gossip, innuendo, and unproven allegations.

“This website is an effort to change that,” Low wrote.

The 36-year-old Penangite is described as a “global philanthropist, investor and entrepreneur” on the website.

A check with an official from a public affairs firm representing Low confirmed the veracity of the website.

Meanwhile, Swiss whistleblower Xavier Justo, in an immediate response, said: “The Jho Low website does not show any proof of his innocence.

“It is just a bunch of legal documents showing that he wants a few cases to be dismissed.

“It’s the way the justice system works, you can be as guilty as guilty is and ask for a case to be dismissed. It’s not proof of innocence,” he told The Star.

The former PetroSaudi Inter­national executive said he was appalled at Low’s attempts to defend himself through the website.

“Any decent person will face justice (in court) if he can prove that he is innocent,” he said.

He added that he was amazed at Low’s attempts to try to “stop the distribution of books, abuse the justice system and hire public relations officers to defend his reputation while also creating a website to tell fairy tales”.

Low’s current whereabouts are unknown; he has been speculated to be hiding in China or the Caribbean.

He and his father, Tan Sri Low Hock Peng, were charged in absentia in Malaysia last month over money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

Last week, Low, through the London-based law firm Schillings, sought to ban the books, The Sarawak Report by Clare Rewcastle Brown and Billion Dollar Whale by The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, from going on sale.

Credit: Razak Ahmad The Star/Asia News Network

Read also

 

Letters to CIA, Spies and the millions – Malaysian External Investigation Organisation (MEIO)’ under probe


Bundles of money: Azam (second from left) and his officers showing the seized money during the press conference in Putrajaya.

>

Video:  //players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5828759511001

PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is widening its investigation into the alleged misappropriation of US$12mil (RM49.3mil) worth of government funds involving a little-known spy agency.

It has already made nine arrests as it looks into unravelling the web of intrigue involving Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid, the former director-general of the Malaysian External Investigation Organisation (MEIO).

The anti-graft investigators are probing if the senior intelligence officers had “help” to bring in US$12mil – believed to be from a Middle East source – into the country.

The cash was believed to have been brought in via air, possibly through Kuala Lumpur Inter­national Airport.

Highly placed sources in the anti-graft body said this angle needed to be looked into as it would be difficult to carry such a staggering amount of money undetected.

Malaysian laws require those bringing in US$10,000 and above into the country to have it declared at the point of entry.

“Obviously, there was a breach of security because the cash was brought in without raising alarms of the authorities at the airport.

“We want to investigate if those who brought in the money had some assistance so that they need not declare it,” a source told The Star.

Following the remand of officers from the MEIO as well as its former chief Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid, investigators found out that the money was brought into the country three months ago in May.

“The timing suggests that the cash was for the general election. But the other question is why the officers had their hands on the money,” said the same source.

Investigators are also not discounting the possibility that the funds could be from 1Ma­­lay­sia Development Bhd (1MDB).

“We will have to probe deeper before coming to a conclusion,” the source added.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki said there was a possibility that the money was brought into the country through the airport.

“Whatever the entry point is, we would like to know how it passed through security. Obviously that would be one angle of investigation,” he said.

Azam said his officers could still manage the investigation but if the need arises, it would seek assistance from other authorities.

Hasanah and seven other former MEIO officers were arrested earlier this week, and a ninth arrest was made on Wednesday night involving a 47-year-old businessman.

The businessman, who has a “Datuk” title and is also a permanent resident of Britain, was ­arrested in Kota Baru at 11pm on Wednesday.

The MACC has so far recovered US$6.3mil (RM25.9mil) of the US$12mil that was brought into the country about three months ago, as well as RM900,000 in ringgit.

The bulk of the US currency, about US$4.07mil (RM16.7mil), was seized from the businessman.

“We have raided several locations, including a rented condominium in Cyberjaya and the Prime Minister’s Department, where we seized the cash along with other valuable items including a luxury watch.

“Our swoop on the suspects began on Monday and we are not ruling out the possibility of making more arrests in the future,” Azam told a press conference at the MACC headquarters earlier yesterday.

The MACC has already called ­several witnesses, including three foreigners, and at least 20 more witnesses will be tracked down and called to assist with the investigation, he said.

MEIO was listed as the “research division” of the Prime Minister’s Department under the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

“Initial investigations revealed that the funds were brought into the country about three months ago,” said Azam.

“We are investigating whether this was before or after the last ­general election (on May 9).

“We are also investigating the source of the funds and which country the money came from.”

And despite its widening scope, the MACC is hoping to wrap up its investigation within two months as long as it does not involve a complicated money trail or require any foreign assistance, he added.

Hasanah was arrested at the MACC headquarters at 4.15pm on Tuesday after she arrived to give a statement to the anti-graft body.

She had previously courted controversy after writing a letter to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Gina Haspel, appealing to the United States to support former premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s administration.

She and the seven officers are also being investigated under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 for abuse of power.

Related

RM26mil in US currency seized in spy agency graft probe RM26mil in US currency seized in spy agency graft probe

1MDB scandal: Cops charge Lows, How Low will Jho go? He proclaims innocence!


‘He helped, among others, bring down a government that had ruled for 61 years, helped
bring criminal charges against a former premier and friend, and catalyzed the return of a 93 year old man to power
… – S. Jayasankaran’
Headline News

 

Cops file charges against the Lows  

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have filed criminal charges against businessman Low Taek Jho and his father for offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 over money allegedly stolen from 1Malay­sia Development Bhd (1MDB).

A source said the charges were filed in absentia by the police with the sanction of the Attorney Gen­eral’s Chambers at the Putrajaya Sessions Court yesterday morning.

According to the charge sheets made available to The Star, Low – also known as Jho Low – is facing eight counolice have filed criminal charges against businessman Low Taek Jho and his father for offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 over money allegedly stolen from 1Malay­sia Development Bhd (1MDB).A source said the charges were fts of money laundering.

In the first, second and third charges, the 37-year-old allegedly received US$261,449,960 from unlawful activities into his BSI Bank Limited account.

In the fourth to eighth charges, he allegedly transferred €41,100,073.22 and US$140,636,225.10 into the account of World View Limited, Caymans Island, in Caledonian Bank Limited, Caymans Island.

The offences were allegedly committed at BSI Bank Limited, No.7, Temasek Boulevard, #32-01 Suntec Tower One, Singapore, between Dec 26, 2013, and June 3, 2014.

Jho Low’s father Tan Sri Low Hock Peng, 66, also faces a charge of money laundering where he allegedly transferred monies from unlawful activity amounting to US$56,449,980 from his bank account into his son’s BSI Bank Limited account.

He allegedly committed the offence at the same BSI Bank Limited on Feb 4, 2014.

All the charges were under Section 4(1)(a) of the Act, which carries a fine up to RM5mil, imprisonment for a term up to five years, or both, upon conviction.

The source said police also applied for warrants of arrest for Jho Low and his father.

The source said a portion of the money was used to purchase the luxury yacht Equanimity, which was seized by Malaysia two weeks ago.

Under Section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an absent person with no immediate prospect of arrest may be tried by the court for an offence in his absence.

In a related development, Inspec­tor-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the new charges enabled the Royal Malaysia Police to obtain new warrants of arrest for Jho Low and his father.

“From there, we will ask Interpol to issue a fresh Red Notice alert on the duo. The Red Notice will seek the cooperation of relevant countries in tracking down the wanted persons,” he told The Star.

The Red Notice will also expedite the extradition process, which will be handled by the Attorney General’s Chambers, and to bring the duo back to Malaysia, he said.

“Our priority has always been to track them down and detain them as soon as possible,” he added.

Based on the charge sheets seen by The Star, journalists visited Jho Low’s family home in Tanjung Bungah, Penang, but no one appeared to be home.- The Star.

 Statement by Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd

Despite being owners of the yacht in question, Equanimity (Cayman) Ltd. has received no legally valid notice of any filing related to a Sale Pendente Lite, nor any notice of a pending court hearing in the matter. This would be a requirement under law.

We also note that there are ongoing proceedings before U.S. courts – including a U.S. appellate court – regarding the ownership and custody of the asset, with active requests filed before a U.S. judge within the past 24 hours. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice submitted a filing in the U.S. court less than one week ago. For Malaysia to act unilaterally while there are pending court requests in the U.S. would be an affront to the international rule of law. In fact, Malaysia’s seizure of the vessel is already contrary to a U.S. court order appointing the U.S. Government as custodian of the yacht.

The U.S. has previously stated that it had no advance knowledge of Malaysia’s seizure of the yacht, and presumably the U.S. had no advance notice of this current Malaysian action either. It is important to note that, despite conflicting statements coming out of the Malaysian government, the U.S. has not proven its case regarding the Equanimity. The U.S. has only filed unproven allegations in court proceedings, after which the U.S. put the entire case on hold over Claimants’ objections. The result of that is that no party has been able to substantively respond to the allegations, and nor has the U.S. been required to prove them.

In addition, it is indisputably clear that Malaysia’s seizure of the vessel and apparent intent to immediately sell it goes entirely against the interests of the yacht and will drastically reduce – indeed, it is already drastically reducing – its potential sale value. Due to the Malaysian government’s precipitous, ill-conceived, and misguided actions, the yacht is running 24 hours per day, 7 days a week on generator power, which is unsustainable and harmful to the vessel. Moreover, Malaysia has currently docked the yacht in a hazardous environment in which toxins such as water pollution and nearby smoke are greatly damaging it. Because Malaysia apparently does not have – or does not want to spend – the necessary funds to properly maintain the vessel while it is prepared for a value-maximizing sale, Malaysia has instead proposed a “fire sale,” in which the yacht is to be sold for a fraction of its true value.

To move for a sale in Malaysia immediately would be a remarkable violation of due process and international legal comity and would call into question the actual ownership of the yacht for any potential buyer. These misguided actions would create a cloud on the Equanimity’s ownership that could easily take years to resolve in several courts around the world.

Tsuey Shan Ho

Account Manager
cid:image001.png@01D37B19.DFA09BC0Tel +44 (0)20 7092 3992

 

How Low will Jho go?

Superyacht: A file picture showing seized
luxury yacht Equanimity being brought to the Boustead Cruise Terminal in
Port Klang on Aug 7. — Reuters

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a railcar but a man who has gone to a university may steal the entire railroad

–- former US President Theodore Roosevelt

FUGITIVE businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, 38, has described Malaysia’s legal proceedings to quickly sell the Equanimity superyacht as a vindictive “sham”.

According to the rotund reprobate, it was a sham because the boat’s ownership was also being contested in the courts of the United States so the ‘hasty” Malaysian admiralty hearing was, at best, iffy.

But what the corpulent conman seemed not to want to concede was that both governments agreed – unequivocally, unarguably and emphatically – that the yacht was not his to roam the oceans with.

They both agreed that the RM1bil boat was bought with monies that were skimmed out of a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Our man Jho has since been keeping a low profile, so low that no one seems to know where the fat fugitive is.

You might say he was distracted: the bulging bandit even left a multi-million dollar private jet back in Singapore and he hadn’t even complained, once, of the uncivil way the authorities just left it out in the sun for over nine months!

In this case, however, the pudgy pirate brought forth his spokespeople to complain about the way the yacht was kept “under the sun” in polluted waters, and with its batteries running 24/7. In short, it was not being treated as a superyacht should have been.

He should be consistent and set forth similar arguments about his private jet. Did I forget to mention that Singapore issued a warrant of arrest for him way back when?

In fairness to our man Jho, he has maintained that he has not stolen anything at all and all the money was his family’s inheritance to begin with.

The problem with that is that at least three countries – the US, Malaysia and Singapore – disagree with its reasoning. Another problem would be his absence from places where people want to ask him hard questions.

It is said that a fool and his money are soon parted. But Fat Boy and Other People’s Money was soon partying and the money seemed endless.

Mario Puzo, the author of the Godfather, put it like this: “A lawyer with a briefcase can steal millions more than a hundred men with guns.”

Let’s face it. He lived, what the Eagles called, Life in the Fast Lane.

He had a private jet and a superyacht.

He had palatial homes all over the world.

He dated Hollywood actresses.

He helped bankroll a Hollywood blockbuster.

He helped bring down a government that had ruled for 61 years, helped bring criminal charges against a former premier and friend, and catalysed the return of a 93 year old man to power.

He may have had more citizenships than Caesar.

And – wonder of wonders – he had no official position in 1 Malaysia Development Bhd. His name must surely resonate in future history books.

Breaking news! Just got word that Fat Boy and his father have been charged by the Attorney General’s Chambers for money laundering offences involving RM1bil, funds that were allegedly used to buy the yacht.

This will make Malaysia the first country to charge our man Jho. Not bad for an Attorney General who was said to “know nothing” of criminal law.

Now we know why they say money launderers are filthy rich.

What will the dodgy deviant say now?

Catch me if you can?

By S. Jayasankaran

Related posts:

https://clips.thestar.com.my/Interactive/EquanimityYacht/EquanimityYacht.mp4 KUALA LUMPUR: Super yacht Equanimity of fugitive financi…
The Bombardier Global 5000 jet parked on the tarmac of  Seletar airport in Singapore PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will have to cough up at…

1MDB scandalous Bombardier Global 500 Jet parking fees of RM3.5mil to be paid if govt wants it back


 

The Bombardier Global 5000 jet parked on the tarmac of  Seletar airport in Singapore

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will have to cough up at least RM3.5mil to bring the Global 5000 private jet that belongs to fugitive Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, back to Malaysia.

The luxury private jet, which was impounded by the Singapore authorities since February last year, is currently parked at the Singapore Seletar airport.

“However, before the plane is allowed to be flown to Malaysia, Seletar airport has asked for settlement of the parking charges first,” said a source.

The source said the parking charges over the last 18 months have escalated to about RM3mil.

It is learnt that Seletar airport had indicated the fee to the Singapore authorities following Malaysia’s keen interest in taking possession of the plane.

Seletar airport is managed by Changi Airport Group Pte Ltd, a facility mainly used for private flights.

Changi Airport Group declined to comment on the parking charges.

“Due to client privacy, we will not be able to share the information,” its spokesman told The Star.

The source said the Malaysian government would have to pay the fee before the airport authority allows the plane to leave its tarmac.

It is understood that negotiations on the parking charges have been held between the Malaysia and Singapore authorities and the airport operator.

But to date, the source said, they have yet to reach a conclusion on the payment.

“The Malaysian government would also have to fork out another RM500,000 to service the aircraft, which has been grounded and left under the sun at the airport apron,” said the source.

The source said the aircraft that has been grounded since February last year is currently undergoing service maintenance work to ensure its airworthiness before it is allowed to be flown to Malaysia.

“The maintenance work on the airport craft is almost completed,” said the source.

The plane is likely to be taken to Subang Airport, a facility mainly used by private planes, said the source.

The Global 5000 jet was listed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) as one of the assets bought using Malaysia’s state-owned 1MDB laundered money, through a series of shell companies and bank accounts.

In a court filing in June 2017, the US DoJ document stated Jho Low used part of the US$700mil (RM2.3bil in 2009) diverted from the 1MDB to acquire the luxury jet.

The Bombardier Global 5000 built in 2008 costs about US$35.4mil (RM145mil). The aircraft was bought at the end of 2009, less than three months after the US$700mil was moved away from 1MDB.

The plane, registered in the US as N689WM/MSN 9265, is registered to a company called Wynton Aviation and placed as a trust with Wells Fargo Bank Northwest.

Wynton Aviation is a company that was registered in the British Virgin Isles in 2009. The DoJ stated that Wells Fargo’s records indicate that it is a holding company owned by Low.

It was learned that prior to the plane being seized, the jet was based at Teterboro Airport New Jersey, close to Jho Low’s New York home.

Airliners.net website showed the plane had flown to Paris, Geneva, Beijing and London among other countries between 2009 and 2017.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had on Aug 13 said Malaysia was keen to take possession of the aircraft.

Early in the month, Malaysia also took possession of the superyacht Equanimity from the Indonesian authorities.

The vessel, valued at US$250mil (RM1bil), was handed over to Malaysian authorities near Indonesia’s Batam island on Aug 6.

It has since been brought back to the Boustead Cruise Centre in Pulau Indah.

Equanimity, which according to DoJ belongs to Jho Low and purchased with funds diverted from 1MDB, was seized by the Indonesian authorities in Tanjung Benoa port, Bali, in February.

The yacht, which is 54th in luxury vessels of its class in the world, was seized at the request of US authorities as part of its initiative to recover the billions diverted from 1MDB.

Another source said due to the high maintenance of the superyacht and its crew, the Indonesian government had decided to turn over the vessel to Malaysia at the request of Dr Mahathir when he visited Jakarta in June.

Credit: Eddie Chua The Star

Related stories:

Implications of the ‘RM19bil GST collected, RM18bil taken’ and RM19.4bil shortfall !


The immediate concern is the budget deficit for 2018 spiking to 4% if the GST refunds are made this year

ON May 31, when Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that the new government would be able to meet the budget deficit of 2.8% for this year, the sum of RM19.4bil that is to be refunded to companies since the goods and services tax (GST) was discontinued, never came into the equation.

Now, since that money is not in a trust account that was specifically set up to meet the refund obligations, does the government need to borrow more to ensure it meets the refunds? In doing so, would it incur a bigger budget deficit than had been envisaged?

There are wider implications on the shortfall of the RM19.4bil, assuming the refunds are to be done this year.

The biggest challenge for Lim is to cover the shortfall to maintain the budget deficit for 2018 at 2.8%.

The hallmark of the Pakatan Harapan government’s first 100 days of rule is to bring down the cost of living and cost of doing business. Towards this end, it has subsidised the price of petrol and diesel and removed the GST.

The cost of keeping up with the Bantuan Sara Hidup and subsidy for petrol and diesel is estimated to be about RM6.2bil between June and December.

Revenue loss due to discontinuing the GST from June 1 onwards is estimated at RM21bil.

The shortfall is made up of cutting down government expenditure by RM10bil, increasing dividends from government agencies such as Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Petroliam Nasional Bhd, a higher petroleum income tax of RM5.4bil and proceeds from the implementation of the sales and service tax from September onwards.

Nowhere was the RM19.4bil figure that is to be paid back to companies under the GST that was discontinued mentioned.

Lim has said that the money was supposed to be in the trust account, but is not there and has gone “missing”.

Former Finance Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Siregar Abdullah has said that all proceeds from the GST went into the consolidated fund of the federal government. The amount to be refunded is allocated to the trust account monthly based on the requirements of the Customs Department and the financial position of the government.

Customs director-general Datuk Seri Subromaniam Tholasy has revealed that since the GST was implemented on April 1, 2015, the total refunds amounted to RM82.9bil and the amount allocated to the trust account from the federal government consolidated fund was only RM63.5bil – representing a shortfall of RM19.4bil.

Generally, refunds for the GST are to be done within 14 days. But the amount allocated is less because not all refunds are paid within the two-week period.

At times, refunds are held back up to one year, pending investigations. Hence, the cash allocated to the trust account maintained by the Customs and the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) is less than the total amount due for refunds.

For instance, in 2017, the amount allocated to the IRB trust account for refunds was RM7bil when the total amount to be refunded was more than that.

In the case of the Customs, the outstanding refunds for 2017 was RM15bil, but the amount allocated was less.

Under the previous government, the GST provided a steady flow of cash every month. The thinking was that the money for refunds should be allocated when it comes due to best manage the cash-flow position of the government.

However, the view of Lim is that money meant for refunds should have been put into the trust account, irrespective of whether there is a need to pay immediately or otherwise.

Hence, the issue is not really the question of the RM19.4bil meant for refunds going “missing”.

It is whether the money is still in the consolidated accounts or whether it has been utilised. If it was utilised, did the government have the right to use it for other purposes in the name of cash-flow management?

The bigger implication for the Pakatan government is how it is going to cover this RM19.4bil shortfall.

One of the ways the government can cover the RM19.4bil hole without increasing the deficit is to cut more of the excesses.

On this score, the Pakatan government has so far handled public funds in a more judicious manner compared to the previous government. It has cut down the budget for inflated infrastructure projects and stopped unnecessary spending.

The light rail transit 3 and East Coast Rail Link projects are only some examples. It has stopped prestigious projects such as the KL-Singapore high-speed rail and the less glamorous mass rapid transit line 3 project. The government of today has earned full marks for being transparent and diligent in handling public finances.

Despite declaring that the federal government debt is at RM1.07 trillion, business sentiment is at a seven-year high, while consumer sentiment is at a 21-year high.

The stock market is looking good so far, much better than the likes of China and Hong Kong, although the improved sentiments are likely to be temporary.

As for the ringgit against the US dollar, its performance is better against many of the Asian and emerging-market currencies. The tumbling of the Turksih lira and Russian rouble is testimony that the ringgit is not that bad after all.

The government can probe, produce a White Paper or do anything else to look into the RM19.4bil shortfall, but the bottom line is that Lim and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will have to face the reality of making up for a RM19.4bil shortfall in government finances for this year.

Economists are predicting that the federal government budget deficit would be higher than the 2.8% estimated on May 31 this year on the assumptions are made this year. Some are looking at the budget deficit to be as high as 4%

Would there be an impact on Malaysia’s credit rating and the ringgit?

Yes, a spike in the budget deficit would have an impact for the short term.

However, the government of the day will score brownie points in its drive to bring about reforms and governance in the management of public funds. Rating agencies would appreciate any government that promotes transparency and improves on its finances purely by spending within its means.

So far, the government has done away with the GST and taken measures to put more cash into the hands of the people and business to improve domestic spending. The stabilisation of petrol prices and threemonth (June to September) tax-free period between the implementation of the GST and SST has put RM20bil into the hands of the people and businesses. This should help improve the domestic economy for a few months.

However, for the longer term, investors and rating agencies will be looking at how the RM19.4bil hole in the federal government finances will be covered. What are the government assets that will be sold?

Certainly, we are not looking at an expansionary budget come November this year.

Source:  The Alternative view by M.Sshanmugam The Star

RM19bil GST collected, RM18bil taken’

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KUALA LUMPUR: The previous government has not been able to refund companies their tax credit that came about following the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) because 93% of the money was not placed in the correct account, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng revealed.

He said some RM18bil of the RM19.4bil input tax credit under the GST system since 2015 was “robbed” by the previous administration.

“I was very shocked when informed that this happened because the previous government had failed to enter the GST collection in the trust account specifically meant for the repaying of GST claims.

“Instead, the Barisan Nasional government pilfered the trust account and entered cash GST collection directly into the consolidated fund as revenue to be spent freely,” he said when tabling the GST (Repeal) Bill 2018 during its second reading in Parliament yesterday.

He said that as of May 31, the outstanding GST refund stood at RM19.397bil whereas there was only a balance of RM1.486bil in the repayment fund.

Lim said from the total input tax credit, RM9.2bil or 47% was recorded between Jan 1 and May 31 this year, RM6.8bil or 35% in 2017, RM2.8bil (15%) in 2016, and RM600mil (3%) in 2015 (from April 1 to Dec 31, 2015).

Under GST, the input tax credit allowed businesses to reclaim credit for taxes paid on purchases, subject to filing of input tax documents.

In his winding-up reply, Lim said a comprehensive investigation would be carried out to determine the cause of the missing funds.

When debating the Bill, Lim also said he had asked for documents to show how the input tax had ended up in the consolidated fund.

“I asked the Chief Secretary to the Government for the Cabinet papers on the matter.

“However, he told me he could not remember anything of such,” he added.

Lim said former Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, when told of the missing funds, said it was imperative that the money was returned to the claimants as it was fiscally moral to do so.

Later, at the Parliament lobby, Lim said a former Treasury secretary-general may have been aware of the missing RM18bil.

The previous government, he said, had committed wrongdoing over the missing funds.

“I would assume the previous KSP (ketua setiausaha perbendaharaan/Treasury secretary-general) would have known about this.

“We want something definite because we want to look at the circle of decision-makers,” he said.

By martin carvalho, hemananthani sivanandam, rahimy rahim, and loshana k shagar The Star

Khairy urges gov’t to bring ‘GST robbers’ to book

BN MPs want Najib, RM18b GST ‘robbery’ claim investigated


Related 

GST refunds should be in trust account: ACCCIM – theSundaily

RM18b input tax credit under GST system robbed … – The Straits Times

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Najib arrested, charged and pleaded not guilty


 

Former premier Najib Abdul Razak was arrested at his residence in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, this afternoon, according to MACC chief commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull.

The arrest was carried out in relation to the commission’s investigation into the SRC International issue.

Speculation is also rife that the former premier could be charged tomorrow.

Shukri Abdul told the media that the arrest took place at 3pm and the former premier has been taken to the commission’s headquarters in Putrajaya for further questioning.

Previously, MACC had recorded Najib’s statement twice with regard to the SRC International issue.

Last Friday, Malaysiakini had reported that there is a strong likelihood the former premier would be arrested this week.

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[More to follow]

LIVE: Najib arrives in court

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