In a report published on Wednesday, March 20, the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) alleged that former Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak hired American companies linked to President Donald Trump in order to clean up his image in the wake of the 1MDB scandal.
The CRP describes itself as “nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit.” According to its website, it is “the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.”
The CRP’s March 20 report is entitled “Fugitive Malaysian financier in multibillion-dollar scandal building army of foreign agents in the U.S.,” and is primarily about Low Taek Jho (Jho Low), who is still at large, but is wanted in Malaysia and the U.S.
However, toward the end of the report is a section entitled “Others in scandal pay for their own paths to influence.” It discusses how Mr Najib “enlisted hard-hitting firms in the U.S., including a firm run by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and another newer firm known for close ties to the Trump administration.”
It is noteworthy that the foreign agent on record at the company is a man named Mark Corallo. Mr Corallo used to be the spokesman for the private legal team of Donald Trump assembled for the Russia investigation.
Furthermore, while Mr Ashcroft’s law firm has already submitted “FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) disclosures detailing activities for the former Malaysian prime minister through the six-month period spanning the second half of 2018,” the other firm has not yet submitted reports concerning funding they may have received.
The reason for this, according to the CRP report, is that the firm cited an “interruption in work and any payment requirements.”
One more firm that the former Malaysian Prime Minister enlisted is the 45 Group. This company was founded by Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, who used to be a Trump campaign aide.
Officially, Ms Nardone’s company was hired in order to help Malaysia arrange “meetings between US government officials and Malaysian officials and advocating on strengthening relations between the US and the Republic of Malaysia.”
But her company has reported that it was paid a six-figure sum by an entity listing an address in Malaysia but is actually registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Najib and other Malaysian officials, along with employees of United States’ financial institution Goldman Sachs, and fugitive Malaysian businessman Low Jho Low, have allegedly stolen billions of dollars from 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad), a strategic development company, which was started for the purpose of driving strategic initiatives for long-term economic development for Malaysia through forging global partnerships and promoting direct investments.
The former Prime Minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has pleaded ‘not guilty’ to all accusations.
For the 1MDB scandal, in particular, Najib faces seven charges connected to allegations that he stole 42 million ringgit ($10.3 million) from one of the former units of the fund, SRC International.
Mr Najib is set to go to trial over his involvement in the 1MDB scandal, although it has been delayed several times. But the first of the 1MDB trials has special significance. It could also boost the government’s morale against criticism of dragging its heels over the 1MDB case.
Mr Najib has been working hard to refurbish his tarnished image of late, attempting to reinvent himself in the eyes of the public as a man of the masses, especially on social media.
The Department of Justice of the United States called the 1MDB scandal “kleptocracy at its worst,” since the state fund had allegedly lost S$ 4.5 billion, said to have been siphoned by Najib and other officials during his term. Ironically, the fund had been established to generate more economic opportunities for the country.