Mahathir has moved the goalposts yet again


The Third Force

Yesterday, fractured ex-premier Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad filed an application with the Kuala Lumpur High Court to freeze the assets of Prime Minister (PM) Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak, which the Malay Mail Online reported was “pending the disposal of a lawsuit” by the former premier against Najib.

First, the facts – on the 23rd of March, Mahathir instituted legal action against the PM on grounds that the latter had interfered in government probes relating to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the RM2.6 billion donation issue.

The suit followed a year long media fuelled offensive that Mahathir himself had launched in December 2014. The campaign, among others, charged Najib of criminal impropriety by implying that the PM had laundered RM2.6 billion using his personal accounts.

When this was proven to be an untruth, Mahathir quickly shifted base by accusing Najib of siphoning the sum from 1MDB, which is how the accusation went from money laundering to the embezzlement of state funds – all in a span of just six months!

To date, five statutory panels have probed the allegations and cleared Najib of any wrongdoing. Frustrated, the former premier filed a lawsuit last month, knowing well in advance that he lacked the locus standi to demonstrate to the court that Najib had interfered in the panels’ discoveries.

But the lawsuit may have served Mahathir the excuse to invoke the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 without the need for him to spell it out aloud.

Under the terms of a provision within the Act, an enforcement agency may issue an order to freeze any property (assets of every kind or legal documents or instruments of any form) that the PM may have in his possession or control or that which is due from any source to him, providing that an investigation with regard to an unlawful activity has commenced against him.

The terms of the same provision also stipulate that the enforcement agency must have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence related to money laundering or terrorism financing has been or is being or is about to be committed, or that the PM’s assets are proceeds of an unlawful activity.

Mahathir’s only problem is this – the various probes into 1MDB and the political donation issue have been concluded. Thus, the only option left for him would be for the court to order a fresh discovery based on recommendations by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

Could this be the reason why Mahathir, together with two other plaintiffs – former UMNO members Anina Saadudin and Dato’ Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan – claimed in their application to the High Court that Najib had never denied the transfer of funds into his personal accounts?

The claim bordered on money laundering and terrorism funding, the implication being that Najib had the tendency to abuse his position by sanctioning the flow of assets outside the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Court. In other words, they’re not saying that a crime has been committed – they’re saying that Najib is predisposed to committing a crime on the basis that he had allowed cross-border transactions using his personal accounts.

Under the provisions of the act, that may be reason enough to consider freezing the PM’s account, the contingency being that an investigation against Najib on charges of malfeasance must commence. On this basis, BNM could apply to the court for a discovery into Najib’s assets, the grounds being that the PM may have influenced investigators against implicating him of laundering and terrorist related activity.

And assuming that a probe is instituted, BNM governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz could step in and deny that it was she who had advised the PM to transfer the RM2.6 billion into his personal account, and that BNM had somehow disposed of forgeries related to Najib’s accounts to foreign media.

Further to that, she could opine that the PM’s assets be frozen to facilitate investigations pursuant to the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

In the event that the PM’s assets are frozen, BNM would automatically assume a supervisory capacity in a discovery exercise that may also include the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Securities Commission (SC). In case you’re wondering, the MACC has the jurisdiction to probe into suspected money laundering activities that involve elements of malfeasance, which is precisely what Mahathir is accusing Najib of.

Question is, is Tan Sri Abu Kassim going to fabricate a charge sheet yet again in an attempt to arrest the PM?

Is this also why Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah had invoked the Federal Constitution four days ago when he iterated that he would abide by any decision that did not contravene the country’s supreme law? Is Razaleigh aware of a fresh plot against Najib, and has he been promised the role of interim-PM?