The publicity surrounding the arrest of a PetroSaudi IT executive smacks of a public relations exercise intended to divert attention from the major questions surrounding 1MDB.
Pro-Najib internet shrills and trolls are using this arrest to claim that all is well with 1MDB and related issues and that its critics have misled the public.
But wait, the arrest of one executive in Thailand (and even if emails were tampered with – though it remains unproven whether the contents were materially altered) has done nothing to answer the following major questions (which may or may not be related to 1MDB):
- It hasn’t answered the allegation made in the Wall Street Journal regarding the purchase of an (overpriced?) power plant from Genting and the alleged link to GE13 expenditure.
- It won’t explain who ultimately financed all those pre-GE13 free dinners in Penang and other pre-election payouts in Penang. It won’t explain who financed the post-election payouts to a large number of people in Penang over three whole days witnessed by a special investigation team from social reform group Aliran, Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin and former Penang Speaker Abdul Halim.
- It doesn’t explain why 1MDB needed to incur so much debt in the first place. In fact, we still want to know how much debt 1MDB has as at 31 March 2015.
- It doesn’t answer the questions swirling around the Cayman Islands and BSI funds/money/”units”. Why did money have to be parked in Cayman Islands? What about all that controversy regarding BSI?
- It doesn’t satisfactorily answer how much of those large ‘investments’ made by 1MDB in little-known entities is actually recoverable. Why is 1MDB struggling to service its loans if it has all these large “investments”?
- It doesn’t explain why 1MDB had to pay so much to for power plants from a concessionaire whose concession period was drawing to a close.
- It doesn’t explain why the government had to sell land so cheaply to 1MDB and in the process lose billions of ringgit that could have gone straight to public coffers. If the government had sold the land to 1MDB at market value, there would have been little need for GST any time soon. Who were the main players behind these outrageous land deals?
- It doesn’t explain what Jho Low’s precise role in this whole affair was, who he was answerable to, and if there was indeed a link with UBG.
- It doesn’t explain why auditors had to be changed twice and why the financial statements were persistently slow to be released.
- All the above questions are important. But the No 1 question everyone should ask is: Why was an entity like 1MDB necessary in the first place (when we already have Khazanah, TNB, etc), other than to remove the management of billions of ringgit of funds (borrowed on the strength of government guarantees) from parliamentary and other regulatory scrutiny and instead place decision-making of how this money was going to be spent in the hands of a tiny group of individuals? Who were the real hands – hidden or otherwise – behind 1MDB?