The opening song of the Dirty Money series on Netflix contains the words “Lie, cheat, steal, kill, win, win”. There are those who will say it is a fitting soundtrack to Episode 2 on former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, entitled The Man At The Top.
Lest anyone think that the episode completely condemns the former leader for corruption, think again, for there are many who still support him today, shouting “Boss ku!” (My Boss).
We also learn that Najib’s cat Kiky is the most famous cat in Malaysia, and when he posts about her, it gets 40,000 likes.
And then there’s Rosmah, his wife, who is widely acknowledged to be the power behind the throne.
She is heard saying: “I don’t mind walking two steps behind. It makes him happy, but what is important is I get what I would like to get.”
The nearly hour-long episode traces Najib’s trajectory as a young hopeful many respected and believed, given his education (in the UK) and parentage (his father had been the second Prime Minister of Malaysia).
Things had been going well for Malaysia until, “unfortunately, he started the 1MDB”, says Ho Kay Tat, the publisher of The Edge, a publication that is critical of Najib.
Jho Low is then introduced, “an international man of mystery”, as Malaysian politician Tony Pua calls him.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was re-elected two years ago to replace Najib, says: “The Budget has always been in deficit, and yet the Government at that time decided to have a wealth fund, similar to what you see in Kuwait and other oil-producing countries.”
Dr Mahathir has recently been replaced by Mr Muhyiddin Yassin.
Low was a “jaw-dropping spendthrift”, says The Sarawak Report’s Clare Rewcastle Brown. The episode contains footage of him partying with US heiress Paris Hilton, who reportedly charged him US$1 million (S$1.4 million) every time she accompanied him to parties.
He was indeed a “big spender who could keep a nightclub viable”. When at one club he was told that Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan was celebrating her 23rd birthday, he ordered 23 bottles of champagne, which were then paraded around the room. When he was told that it had been a mere prank and it wasn’t her birthday, he went ahead and ordered 23 bottles more.
Low also had celebrities like Britney Spears at parties jumping out of birthday cakes.
During the heyday of Low’s lavish lifestyle, Brown says that Rosmah is said to have stamped her foot, saying: “He needs to remember it’s my money, too.”
Rosmah’s lavish shopping sprees are also well-documented, having spent so much in Hong Kong that a jet was needed to take her purchases home. She is said to be similar to the former First Lady of the Philippines, Mrs Imelda Marcos, “except at a much higher level”.
Brown says she had a different Birkin crocodile handbag every time she went out, and her luxurious jewellery is also shown in the episode.
Najib says in an interview with the film-maker: “I accept that there were accusations of an opulent lifestyle. And it’s not appropriate. So I’m trying my level best to change that perception. Because I think it’s just a question of perception. The truth is something else. And I hope, you know, people in due course will understand the real person that I am.”
Speaking of Rosmah, he says: “I think the lifestyle can be explained. I mean she does, like most women, my wife does like to shop, but you tend to accumulate things over a period of time, and some of the places she shops are… You know she goes to outlets as well, do you know?”
He adds: “I sometimes complain. I say, you know don’t keep those things! You’re a hoarder, you keep things for a long time. Get rid of them you know? But it’s amazing that after a few years the amount of things accumulate, particularly when you’re in office…”
“We have friends. Friends don’t give us presents. And it’s not anything against the law in Malaysia to receive presents. Every head of government receives gifts, particularly from the Middle East. I mean, your President received quite expensive gifts from the Middle East as well. I believe it’s well-documented,” he tells the Netflix crew, referring to US President Donald Trump.
“It’s widely exaggerated in terms of my lifestyle. I’m basically a simple person. I love the simple lifestyle,” he says.
Season 2 of Dirty Money began streaming on Netflix from Wednesday (March 11). /TISG