As the most powerful person in the country for the past nine years before losing it all in the last election, perhaps former Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Razak’s biggest downfall wasn’t his alleged financial scandals and murders… but his negligence. Hear us out…
In an interview with Al Jazeera aired on Friday (Oct 26), Najib was grilled by the “101 East” programme’s host, Mary Ann Jolley, for over 20 minutes on the subjects of 1MDB allegations, his wife Datuk Sri Rosmah Mansor’s insane jewellery splurges, Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case, and among others.
Najib had given “I don’t know” or “let the authorities investigate” answers in about 14 occasions when responding to firing questions thrown by Jolley. The journalist, who got deported out from Malaysia when covering Altantuya case in 2015, was persistent in teasing statements out of Najib. She had gotten the him “visibly irritated” and ultimately walked out of the interview.
The first “let the authorities examine it” respond came at 9:07 mark when Jolley asked Najib about the similarities of phrases in letters by a business associate of Low Taek Jho and Saudi Prince Saud Abdulaziz Al-Saud. Both letters conveyed that the gifts to Najib or Jho Low shouldn’t be “construed as an act of corruption”.
“There are serious questions about the authenticity of the letter (by the Saudi Prince),” said Jolley, “How do you account for the fact that the letter from the Saudi prince uses exactly the same phrases as the letter written by a very close business associate of Low gifting him millions of dollars of art?”
To that, Najib simply said he wasn’t privy to the letters to Low and the matter should be handled by the authorities. The Pekan MP added, “The question is when I received the fund, was I aware the source of the money?
“If the central bank were to signal to me there was something of concern, then I would have done something about it.”
Referring to the investigation report by the United State Department of Justice (DOJ), Jolley said the infamous “RM2.6 billion” donation was wired from a Singapore account controlled by a Low’s associate which the source of the money originated from 1MDB. She said “it wasn’t a secret” as the account number is easily recognizable.
Again, Najib said he − assumed − the colossal sum of money was a genuine donation by the United Arab Emirates and stressed that “I do not have any knowledge beyond that, please…” The third time Najib playing the “I don’t know” game.
Next, Jolley asked Najib to comment about 1MDB probes in six countries, suggesting that the allegations must have some strong basis of truth given that the scandal-ridden company is facing investigations all over the world.
In return, Najib threw the question back at Jolley and said he was curious who else benefited from the 1MDB failures, citing that there were other international figures involved in the state investment company other than Low.
Najib claimed that the “RM2.6 billion” was returned to the Saudis but Jolley, citing to DOJ report, said that some $27 million of the money was used to purchase a pink diamond pendant for Rosmah where she shopped, picked, and tried it on along with Low.
However, Najib revealed that it was a gift by a brother of the Crowned Prince, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, who is also a close associate of Low. Najib said his wife didn’t receive the 22-carat diamond, shutting down Jolley’s inquiry by telling her the authorities would investigate.
“If I knew it (the pendant) was from 1MDB money, I wouldn’t have accepted it
“Who would know where it came from, who paid for it… We wouldn’t know,” said Najib again, claiming that he was in the dark about the source of money.
Jolley stated that Najib’s official income was RM70,000 a year and asked if receiving the multi-million gift would stain his reputation as the premier. To that, Najib said it’s a culture among the region and he repeatedly denied knowing the value of the pendant three times.
Clearly not happy with the answer, Jolley shook her head in disapproval as Najib explained other monarchs had gifted Malaysia presents and his predecessors did openly receive them.
The “I don’t know” narrative continues in the second half of the interview as they delved into Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz’s insane splurges in foreign properties and producing the highly acclaimed Martin Scorsese’s movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. Najib contended that it was all a “commercial arrangement” with the royals of the Abu Dhabi.
“When you are being presented that sort of offer (billions of loan), you cannot look beyond it cause you wouldn’t know.
“You just assume that the money comes from the people who want to invest,” said Najib.
15-minute into the interview, Jolley had enough of the ambiguous and the unavailing responses. She said, “it seems to me you’re constantly saying ‘you don’t know where the money came from’ yet at the same time 1MDB was going into massive debt.”
Najib threatened to leave the interview soon after but he decided to stay when Jolley wanted to ask about Altantuya’s murder case, which he knew she was fond about the subject due to her previous deportation.
“(It was) a good thing we deported you. You’re a nuisance,” Najib retorted, “because as far as I’m concerned, making lies… fabricating lies is not something we want to tolerate in this country.”
Jolley stressed that she was merely seeking an interview with Najib at the time, and had no political agenda. But Najib said the way she approached the issue was as if he was already involved.
He said the decision to deport her was with the local authorities and he had no party in that order.
Najib eventually walked out of the interview after Jolley baited him to sit back down to talk about his legacy. Najib wanted to talk about the economy of the country but it was apparent that all Jolley wanted was to talk about his allegations.
“Come on, you are not being fair to me… Look, I’ve done my part and I’m not going to stand anymore for this,” Najib said in anger in the midst of the commotion.
Watch the full interview on the next page.