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THE WORLD'S BIGGEST HEIST

“A Lannister always pays his debts.”

— House Lannister


In June 2009, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib (now Finance Minister) launched 1MDB- 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a fund which was meant to be used for the development of the economy by making strategic investments; but the only thing strategic about it was how it was being used elsewhere.


The same year, 1MDB entered into a $1.8 billion joint venture (partnership) with PetroSaudi International- a Private Saudi oil company. Notably, one of the co-founders of PetroSaudi International was Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia.


1MDB was supposed to initially contribute $1 billion to the joint venture. But, only $300 million made it to the joint venture. The remaining $700 million went to a Swiss Bank account belonging to none other than Jho Low- the most prominent businessman in Malaysia with close ties to former PM Najib. From there, $681 million were transferred to Mr. Najib's account.


Xavier Justo, a Director at PetroSaudi, was owed $2.5 million, which the Company was unwilling to pay. Before he resigned, he downloaded around 200,000 confidential e-mails from the company's server, which was proof of how that $681 million was illegally transferred to Mr. Najib's account. He started to look for buyers for this data, who would pay him the same $ 2.5 million in exchange for these emails. Soon, he found a journalist who published this information on her website, under the title 'Sensational Findings!". The sheer suddenness- the sheer suddenness of this move! The unexpected nature of this move shocked the Malaysian government.


They had everything necessary to implicate then PM Najib, but just when the attorney general was going to charge him with the "misappropriation of funds", he fired the attorney general, and appointed a new one.


In January 2016, the new attorney general cleared Mr. Najib of any wrongdoing, saying that the $681 million was a donation from the Saudi Royal family.


In 2018, Mr. Najib was voted out in the elections over this scandal. At court, he pleaded "not guilty" to 42 charges related to money laundering. His lawyers said that he was misled by Jho Low, and the funds in his accounts were, in fact, donations from the Saudi royal family.


But, there is just one more big player in this corrupt game- the financial giant, Goldman Sachs! They have been accused of misleading investors over three bond sales (investments) worth $6.5 billion, the proceeds of which went to 1MDB. Goldman Sachs has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to them about how proceeds from the bond sales would be used.


The proceeds of this were illegally used by Jho Low and Mr. Najib's family to buy a private jet, a superyacht, hotels, and artwork by Picasso and Monet. Some of the money was allegedly even used to produce the Hollywood film 'The Wolf of Wall Street'.


Last week, Goldman Sachs agreed to settle the dispute for $3.9 billion. This means that all criminal charges against Goldman Sachs will be dropped.


The mastermind of this scandal- Jho Low's whereabouts are not known, but the authorities believe he may be hiding in China. Last year, he agreed to transfer $900 million in assets (properties), including the rights to the 'The Wolf of Wall Street', to the Malaysian government.


With over $4.5 billion involved, the 1MDB scandal has become the biggest heist of all time. Mr. Najib, Jho Low, Prince Turki and several others involved treated the 1MDB fund as their personal piggy bank. However, on tuesday, Mr. Najib will face his first verdict, which would decide whether he is "guilty" or "not guilty". This trial comes as a divine test, which will clear the air on how deep corruption and power reside in Malaysian politics.


Reporter- Haneen Farid

Bangalore, India | epicenter.newsmedia@gmail.com

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