Kuala Lumpur — One year to the day Malaysia voted out former Prime Minister Najib Razak, Middle Eastern media company Al-Jazeera released Malaysia: Power and Corruption, an investigation into corruption in Malaysia and the 1MDB scandal.
In the video, noted Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar says that Mr Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, had been “the most powerful person in Malaysia” during her term as First Lady.
Zunar, an outspoken critic of the corrupt excesses of Mr Najib and his wife, had had several criminal charges filed against him. When Mr Najib’s coalition lost the General Election last May, Zunar was so thrilled he could not sleep for two nights.
He said, “It’s no secret that she was in power but she’s a godsend to me as a cartoonist because I can use her to open up people’s eyes about corruption.”
Showing Al Jazeera’s 101 East journalist Mary Ann Jolley one of his cartoon books, he said,
“You see Marie Antoinette? She loved diamonds. Imelda Marcos loved shoes. Grace Mugabe loved handbags. But she,” pointing to a cartoon figure of Ms Rosmah, “loved them all. Shoes, diamonds, and handbags. Everything.”
Another man who claims to be a business partner of the former Prime Minister and his wife, as well as Ms Rosmah’s confidant, echoes Zunar’s claim.
Deepak Jaikishan, whom Al-Jazeera calls a “controversial” Malaysian businessman, said that the former Prime Minister and his wife had personally benefited from deals the government made.
In an interview with Ms Jolley, he actually remarked, “You could say she’s the de facto prime minister.”
“She’s just plain greedy. She wants it all. The diamonds, especially the expensive, priceless pieces, were her way of keeping their money. It’s an easy way for her to siphon off the money and to keep it in a very simple place.
They never imagined they would lose the election. They never imagined the police would raid their house.”
He told Al Jazeera’s Jolley that businessmen would regularly visit Ms Rosmah at home seeking lucrative deals.
“Jewellers would come visit her in the house, every day. And if you had a certain transaction going in with Rosmah at that point, she would ask us to come to the house and she would introduce us to this jeweller.
She’d say, ‘I just bought this, not much. Only 2 million US (dollars). Can you please make sure he gets the money by Friday?” referring to the jeweller.
According to Mr Jaikishan, the former Prime Minister was well aware that these, and other transactions were being carried out.
“Datin Rosmah is an astute businesswoman. It’s not difficult for her because her husband was the Prime Minister. Any property that she identifies is always hers.
It went to a point where every project had to go through her. Any cabinet minister who defied her or dared to voice out against her was just x-ed off. You could say she’s the de facto prime minister.”
However, according to both Ms Rosmah and the former Prime Minister, the jewels in her possession had been gifts from foreign dignitaries.
The Al Jazeera report also looks at the role played by Ms Rosmah in the 1MDB scandal, since one of her older sons by a previous marriage had been close friends with Low Taek Jho, popularly known as Jho Low, the now-fugitive Malaysian financier at the heart of the scandal, who stands accused of diverting US $1 billion from 1MDB.
Ms Rosmah’s son, Reza Aziz, is accused of having gotten US $240 million from the sovereign wealth fund for funding the Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street” and for purchasing several properties.
Earlier this week, the Government of Malaysia, as well as the country’s police, filed two civil forfeiture suits against Mr Najib and Ms Rosmah in order to take possession of items worth RM711million (S$234 million) which had purportedly been purchased using funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
After last year’s General Election in May, the police raided various homes and offices connected to ex-PM Najib. Commissioner Amar Singh, who had been the commercial crime investigation department director at Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Aman police headquarters, had described the seizure as the biggest in Malaysia’s history, with the total value of the items seized estimated to be between RM900 million (S$295.6 million) and RM1.1 billion (S$ 361.3 million). /TISG