Behind every great fortune is a crime – French novelist Honoré de Balzac
Jho Low, the plump pirate better known in select criminal circles as Felonious, was entertained by the joke and, as always, delighted in his friend’s masterly grasp of understatement.
He’d just read that Fearless Leader, once a Malaysian Premier, had revealed to the Kuala Lumpur High Court that he had “only RM4.5 million in assets.”
Politicians from every component party of the National Front government were moved. They knew the real root of all evil was a lack of money.
But most people weren’t politicians, they were more cynical and distrustful and generally seemed unbelieving. Fearless felt injured. “You think you’ve got problems?” snarled Malaysia’s once-most-powerful man. “What about me?”
It was a good, if pointless, question. Ever since 2014 amid the gradual revelations, the whispered rumours, and the increasing awareness of the gravity of the 1MDB problem, Fearless had had to deny, evade, duck, prevaricate, obfuscate or simply lie to Parliament and the Malaysian people about the matter.
That takes a lot of nerve, an epidermis of no mean thickness and, surely, much heart-hammering amid the blood pressure of a giraffe. And, lest we forget, he had to return home to daily karaoke (Girls just wanna have funds) and occasional counsel (Can I advise you something?).
The extent of Fearless’ pre-emptive efforts to distance himself from 1MDB are slowly emerging. On Thursday, an anti-corruption agency officer testified that Fearless amended a 2016 audit report on 1MDB that was to be presented to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee “to shield himself from legal consequences.”
And what do you think he felt every time he attended an international meeting after 2016, after the US’ Department of Justice had made sure the 1MDB scandal had made the world’s headliners, when the magnitude of the fiasco was becoming clear?
Are they giving me the cold shoulder and ignoring me, or am I imagining it?
Oh My God, is that a knowing look in Lee’s eyes?
It must have been a time to try anyone’s soul and Felonious sympathised because he knew the extent of the heist. Neither did he feel any remorse about the matter. In fact, he’d recently offered RM1.5 billion to Putrajaya to forget the whole thing but the ingrates had declined.
As for those who accused him of burdening future generations with debt, he charitably forgave them as they did not know it was condoned. Didn’t the Bible say, “Blessed are the children for they will inherit the national debt?”
Felonious considered himself a principled man because, principally, there were only two rules governing crime and Rule 1 was unambiguous: never get caught.
The second, which he was particularly proud of, simply referred the seeker of knowledge to Rule 1.
Fearless considered his friend’s position neither here nor there and thought it cold comfort. Meanwhile, his defence team anguished over his RM4.5 million “revelation” because they’d been calculating their bill.
And so it goes. And, in this instance, only the Bamboo River remains.
Still, silent, waiting.