Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who are suspected of embezzling funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) may finally face criminal charges. As speculated by many Malaysians, the twist in this case is that the main role was not played by the former power couple but instead it was pinned down to Rosmah and financier, Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low).
According to US publication The Wall Street Journal, which was one of the first news sites to initially blow the whistle and report on the scandal following The Sarawak Report‘s exposé, it was reported that Rosmah is seen as having played a central role in the alleged misappropriation from the sovereign investment fund with help from Jho Low, the 36-year old Penang-born, fugitive billionaire.
He is currently wanted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as one of the “main culprits” who helped set up 1MDB in 2009 and then funnelled money from it for other purposes.
In the article published by the WSJ yesterday, they stated that, “People who know Ms Rosmah say she helped orchestrate the alleged involvement of a young Malaysian financier who the US Justice Department says helped set up the 1MDB fund and then oversaw its looting.”
Apparently, Rosmah and Low’s friendship started from over ten years ago when Low had impressed Rosmah with his friendship to prominent Middle Eastern families while he was still a student. He then “persuaded an Abu Dhabi state fund to invest in a Malaysian project for which Ms Rosmah’s husband could take credit”.
It was history from then on as Low became Rosmah’s main side-kick. In fact, he was the one who handled Rosmah’s vast array of luxury goods, like her diamond collection that one of her associates had estimated to be worth US$350 million (RM1.41 billion), to handbags, including the infamous collection of Hermes Birkins, watches and more.
It did not end there as every wish from Rosmah became Low’s command. From paying US$100,000 for a two-page advertisement in The New York Times for Rosmah’s welcome to the United States to facilitating Rosmah’s desire of “hanging out” with Hollywood A-listers like Robert De Niro and Jamie Foxx at parties she attended.
Don’t be fooled because at the end of the day, WSJ reported that Rosmah was the main force behind all of Najib’s actions on 1MDB. The report also said that Najib was focused on getting funds for political purposes and did not appear to be fully informed about 1MDB’s management.
“The wife had more of a picture than the husband,” WSJ cited her as a person deemed by US investigators as one of the main players in the alleged embezzlement.
The WSJ cited people close to the couple saying Najib wanted to resign when investigations heated up in 2016 but was told by Rosmah to stand his ground. It was even cited that Rosmah had even listened in on a phone conference between Malaysia’s ambassador to the US and American lobbyists she had hired to get the US Justice Department to drop all investigations into 1MDB.
Since then, neither party has been charged, but things aren’t all that glamorous now. The US Justice Department has since suspended a lawsuit that initially only wanted to seize assets bought with corrupted gains but now they’re re-framing their investigations with criminal charges in mind.
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