THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING CONNECTED

The very rich have no need of character – Hebrew proverb

Jho “Felonious” Low thought character was overrated anyway so he concentrated on keeping the police in Macao happy so everybody there could continue to live happily ever after.

His wife, the low-profile, Mrs Felonious didn’t want too much out of life either. All she’d wanted was a husband who was kind and understanding which she didn’t think was asking too much of a billionaire.

Felonious thought The Way Forward lay in living as quietly and as low-profile as possible which is Evading Capture 101 for all criminal masterminds on the run.

That was why he was now scanning the papers with a furrowed brow. Even his cigar remained in hand, unlit.

The object of the stout scalawag’s consternation was a report that the Malaysian King had invited Fearless Leader, a former co-worker and helpmate of Felonious, to break the Ramadan fast at the Palace. It seemed as appropriate as inviting Tim Leisner to address the World Economic Forum.

Even so, there they all were, cheerfully breaking the fast together. The pictures have since been posted on the Net. And there has been no lack of comment!

Fearless seems oblivious to public perception which is strange and uncharacteristic of the veteran politician that he obviously is. Or perhaps he’s cynical enough to understand the truth behind the Phyllis Diller quip: “Those who have money to burn are often surrounded by people with matches.”

But there is another quote that seems more germane to this issue: “The poor and ignorant will continue to lie and steal so long as the rich and educated show them how.” Alas, I can’t remember its author, but it does seem to fit.

Fearless was found guilty by two consecutive courts of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and faces a 12-year sentence pending a final appeal to the Federal Court. Meanwhile, he faces other, equally daunting, charges including one for evading taxes of over RM1 billion. We should also keep in mind the media’s description of the fraud at 1MDB as the “greatest theft in human history.”

But he remains free on bail, enjoys all the perks of an ex-premier including outriders, and traipses all over the country, campaigning, speaking, and having dinners. This is in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim: he was denied bail at the outset for a crime many other countries do not even recognise.

Meanwhile, the Fearless precedent is already taking root. A Kelantan farmer facing jail time for committing grievous bodily harm was given bail after he cited Fearless’ precedent of remaining free despite convictions by two courts.

Viewed in its broader context, the Dinner at the Palace is perplexing to say the least. The signal it sends out is downright appalling as it seems to suggest that criminality can be condoned in certain circumstance.

Felonious sat up with a jerk as he pondered these significant portents. There was a moral to this story somewhere and he thought he knew the answer.

Life was just a breathing spell, and it was better to live rich than die rich.

ENDS

CRIME DOES NOT PAY, NOR SHOULD IT SEEM TO

In three words I can summarise everything I’ve learnt about life – it goes on. –Poet Robert Frost.

Najib Razak would, no doubt, agree.

Malaysia’s First Felon, affectionately known in high society criminal circlers as Fearless Leader, has been fearlessly dishing out advice left, right and centre – and people are taking heed, it seems.

Indeed, he’s morphed into a latter-day Svengali to the United Malays National Organisation, the party he once headed. Fearless is, to be sure, the Boss-Who-Needn’t-Feel-Any-Shame-at-All.

And he doesn’t, not a jot.

Even so, the shameless ex-boss continues to be deferred to as a leader. Nowhere was this more evident than in a recent video showing the party faithful celebrating its win in the recent Johor state election: it showed party president Zahid Hamidi elbowing Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob aside to bring Fearless up-front, to the head of the throng.

It’s no wonder Ismail’s been looking especially doleful of late.

As I write this, I read, with astonishment, that Fearless just concluded a keynote address to the Penang International Business and Investment Summit.

The report went on to say that during his “two-day trip” to Penang, Fearless was expected “to meet the Chinese community” and “the state Umno liaison committee.”

Ye Gods! Who invites a person found guilty of defrauding his country to launch an “international business and investment” seminar?

That’s like inviting Bernie Madoff to launch a Rotary business event in, say, Seremban. Let’s face it, on the Jho Low Scale of Mammoth Larceny, Madoff is a minnow to Fearless’ whale.

Meanwhile, why is Fearless being lauded about, and bowed and scraped to, as if he were leading his party into the next general election?

Do they know something we don’t?

The absurdity of it all is made preposterous by the testimony coming out of a Brooklyn courtroom. It stars Felonious, Fearless’ less-than-trusty sidekick and co-stars greedy bankers and everyone else who fed at the 1MDB trough. Their numbers, to quote the Bible, are “legion.”

By all accounts, Felonious was the mastermind and the biggest thief of the lot. But he could not have pulled it off without help from the top.

How did Fatboy convince everybody, even people already rich as Croesus, to participate in a grand plan to loot an entire country? The US trial in Brooklyn was told that the rotund robber siphoned US$4.5 billion (RM18.9 billion) of 1MDB’s money into his own account.

Fearless has been convicted of only one crime that involved a sum of RM42 million which is peanuts in terms of Felonious’ colossal theft. But it sets the stage. His big trials are ongoing and he has a lot to answer for.

Which is why it is sheer lunacy to continue to fete Fearless, to extol him and assure him he needn’t feel shame. To do so would be to exonerate him. Even worse, it’s a tacit nod towards corruption, even its encouragement, so long as the loot is shared.

1MDB was and remains the largest theft in the history of white-collar crime. That is an absolute fact and no amount of dissembling, artifice, advice or keynote speeches at investment seminars can diminish its magnitude.

The Appeals Court described him as “a national embarrassment.”

There is also that.

ENDS

JUST WHEN YOU THINK IT CAN’T GET ANY WORSE, IT CAN

It’s generally been a depressing week, don’t you think?

George Carlin was right all along: how, on God’s green earth, can any war be civil? And amid a still-raging pandemic?

I read, with mounting disbelief, that Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and the largest in Europe, was on fire early Friday after an attack by Russian troops.

Are they out of their minds?

Even Vladimir “Stoneface” Putin must know there are no winners in that kind of war. In the words of Bertrand Russell, it’s either “co-existence or no existence.” In those circumstances, all men are truly cremated equal.
Against that hellish backdrop, the banality, and continuing dishonesty, of Malaysian politics comes across as almost refreshing, a bit of comic relief in an otherwise grim world.

The nation’s First Felon, the peerless, Fearless Leader once again demonstrated his prodigious ability to perplex by telling Parliament Wednesday that the government had yet to pay “a single cent” of the principal debt of 1MDB, the sovereign wealth fund that Fearless set up and, subsequently, crippled through the sheer weight of its own debt.

He was attempting to show that taxpayers hadn’t been injured in the slightest. You have to admire the man’s gift for being disingenuous.

It is true that the principal amount of 1MDB’s debt (RM32 billion) hasn’t changed but it’s only because the bonds issued by 1MDB – to buy unnecessary assets at inflated prices – aren’t due yet. Since its inception in 2009, taxpayers have repaid over RM13 billion of 1MDB’s debt with another RM38-odd billion to go.

The latter will become due starting May and will have to be serviced by the taxpayer until 2039. Malaysia’s total national debt is over RM1 trillion.

Blessed are the children for they shall inherit the national debt. The sentiment was Herbert Hoover’s and he was the US President widely credited with exacerbating the Great Depression of the 20th Century.

In a backhanded sort of way, it makes me glad that I’m over 65.

Meanwhile, the bells of judgment have begun tolling for Fearless. Having been found guilty by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal, Fearless had desperately tried to delay matters by attempting to claim “new evidence”.

The hope was extinguished Wednesday when the country’s apex court rejected any more postponements. And so Fearless’ final throw of the dice will take place March 16-18.

If he loses there, he can no longer “pass Go nor collect $200”. Instead, he will have to “proceed directly” to jail to begin serving a 12-year sentence. There, he won’t have police outriders or bodyguards. Nor is he likely to expect the adoring throngs, with their raucous cries of “Bossku” (My Boss) any time soon.

He will have to get used to new dietary conditions, new clothes, an out-of- parliament experience and grimmer accommodation than he’s accustomed to. His pensions are also likely to be axed.

On the plus side, he will still get to go out from time to time: Fearless still faces very serious charges in several remaining trials.

From somewhere deep in Macao, Jho “Felonious” Low watched the plight of his once-trusted friend and helpmate with all the sympathy a bottle of ice-cold Moet & Chandon Esprit du Siècle Brut can summon.

The sympathy was considerable but it was also tempered by relief and a sudden epiphany on Felonious’ part.
There but for the grace of Money and many passports go I.

ENDS

A FOOL AND HIS MONEY ARE SOON PARTYING

Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. – Benjamin Franklin

I read an item on Twitter recently, from an aggrieved bank customer in Malaysia.

Our friend thought he’d finally paid off his car loan. Close, but no cigar.

His loan balance read $0.01. And the bank insisted that he settle the “outstanding” amount before anything else, meaning, he couldn’t cancel said bank’s claims on the car.

Trivia for the day: Do you know you cannot transfer $0.01 online? It’s below the minimum transfer amount.

It stumped our worthy who proceeded to have a Eureka moment: He transferred $1 to the bank instead.

“Hee-Hee,” thought he gleefully, “now it’ll have to return $0.99 to me and Good Luck with that!”

Unfortunately, the bank was made of sterner stuff: it knew Banking Rope-A-Dope 101 as well as any Goldman Sachs and countered with the aplomb of a bureaucrat. Its answer: if said worthy wanted any change, he’d have to submit a written request together with supporting documents of proof.
It was the banking equivalent of “put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Of course, he gave up!

Our friend didn’t name the bank which was a pity as it might have embarrassed it enough to have the grace to return his money.

“You win, bankers,” he concluded dismally, “You always f$%^&g win!”

Tim Leisner didn’t.

As an implacable banker and a hardnosed dealmaker, Leisner knew there were only two rules for success. 1) Never tell all you know.

But now he was telling all that he knew about 1MDB to a New York court and Malaysians were riveted. He was the person who enabled Jho “Felonious” Low to steal billions of dollars from 1MDB and his guilty plea probably did more to undermine former premier Najib Razak’s credibility than anything else.

The sums bandied about in Leisner’s testimony against Roger Ng, his Goldman colleague and friend, were enough to delight Donald Trump. It also made you wonder why anyone in their positions – wealthy by any measure – would take such risks to make themselves richer.

But these people aren’t normal, to begin with. Recall that the wife of the former premier thought nothing of paying over a RM1000 for getting her hair done in her home.

For his part, Felonious knew that money couldn’t buy you happiness, but it could buy you a yacht big enough to pull up alongside it.

He probably thought he would remain safe so long as his friend remained in power. Both knew the Golden Rule: he who has the Gold, Rules.

I suppose in the case of the former First Lady, if it didn’t buy you happiness, it helped you be miserable in comfort.

But how to explain Leisner and Ng?

Goldman’s exorbitant commissions were immediately noticed by the media which must have set warning bells ringing in the US and Malaysia.

Felonious’ extravagant and well publicised spending sprees in the US must have also attracted attention. The minute the DOJ released its report in 2016, Messrs Leisner and Ng must have known the jig was up.

Despite his testimony and cooperation, Leisner still faces sentencing. The former premier’s last gasp is also due.

Only Felonious remains unaccounted for.

So are 1MDB’s billions.

ENDS

HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

Utility, thought Dr M, is when you barely have enough; luxury is when you have enough; opulence is when you have more than enough; and ridiculous is when you are heaped with more, despite already racking up much more than enough.

That appeared to explain the continuing good fortune of Fearless Leader. The former premier was convicted of Very Grand Theft for which the Malaysian government now appeared to want to reward him.

To paraphrase the Bard, the slings and arrows of Fearless’ continuing good fortune were, verily, outrageous.

Dr M was in Parliament to discuss this very matter and he thought it was good to be back. Actually, most people knew, at 96, it was good to be anywhere.

Life had handed the physician lemons and he thought it best to squirt them in someone’s eye. That’s what he did in Parliament last week, lambasting the government for its incredible generosity towards a man accused of looting more than RM18 billion from the country he was elected to lead.

Think about that for a minute! The sum – US$4.5 billion – is the amount the US Justice Department estimates was siphoned off from 1MDB. It’s mind-boggling, the sort of thing Bernie Madoff might have contemplated if he were on steroids; a heist that a Great Train Robber might regard with awe.

Dr M was incensed that Fearless had requested a “privilege” from the government in the form of a 2.8-acre residential property worth RM100 million in one of Kuala Lumpur’s swankiest neighbourhoods.

The government had, apparently, agreed, which was what had infuriated the old man.

It was Charlie Brown who got it right, “Somehow I never quite know what’s going on,” he reflected sadly in a strip I read years ago.

That’s what many of us want to know. Here we have a convicted person, the First Felon if you like, going around with security and a motorcycle escort, campaigning in an election to loud cheers, being allowed to travel overseas.

And now he’s asked for a RM100 million house as an “entitlement” and no one thinks it’s strange, weird, or, even remotely, grotesque?

Only a 96-year-old man and the rest of the opposition?

Even the self-confessed holier-than-thou types, the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, normally so quick to judge or condemn, has been strangely reticent on this subject. Indeed, they haven’t uttered a peep on the matter.

It’s never worried about other people’s money: it’s other people’s fun that keeps them up nights. Because, as sure as night follows day, it’s probably immoral.

I suppose that’s life. The average person strives, he tries to do what’s right, he stays on the right track and still gets hit by a train. And he answers like Norm in Cheers when Coach asks: “How’s the world treating you?”

Norm: “Like a baby treats a diaper.”

This is a world where John Lennon gets murdered, the same world that sees new Barry Manilow releasers each year.

Fearless knew the secret of life. The trick to getting ahead was to get a good lawyer, good book be damned.

ENDS

TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO BLAME ANOTHER EVEN MORE SO

Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak, or Fearless Leader, has applied to a United States court to obtain the names of 1Malaysia Development (1MDB) officials who were bribed by Tim Leisner, the former Asian head of Goldman Sachs.
Fearless’ lawyer, the hirsute Scruffy A, had been doing his damnedest to stall the trial of his client because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Fearless is currently being tried for four criminal charges in bribery totalling RM2.28 billion and 21 other charges of money laundering involving the same amount.
Unfortunately, the learned Scruffy’s fishing expedition was dismissed. The judge didn’t budge which, while being good poetry, did little for Fearless’ state of mind as the trial wasn’t delayed in the slightest.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Fearless had already been found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison in an earlier trial. He’d also been fined RM210 million to boot. He faces an additional five years if he fails to pay the fine.
Indeed, everything Fearless had touched during what he liked to recall as his “golden years” seemed to be crumbling into dust.
AmBank, the bank Felonious, Fearless’ ever-mistrustful sidekick, chose for the money laundering operations, had been fined RM2.83 billion as part of a “global settlement” in relation to 1MDB. The fine almost brought the bank to its knees.
Similarly, Deloitte, 1MDB’s auditor at one time, paid RM324 million for neglecting to disclose the agency’s sins of commission. Another auditor KPMG is negotiating its fate.
With so many entities and individuals left burning in their wake, a reasonable man might conclude that Messrs Fearless and Felonious were now repentant and despairingly sitting in sackcloth and ashes, and beating their breasts.
Alas, he would be disappointed.
The flabby Felonious has not been seen since 2018, the same year that French winemakers noticed a huge spike in the sales of champagne in the northern region of Macao.
That was not to say that Felonious had gotten off scot free. By his own standards, he’d bled as well, losing a yacht, a private jet and billions in assets in Malaysia, the US and the United Kingdom.
But the chubby charlatan was nothing if not philosophical. “Easy come, easy go,” shrugged the bovine bandit and concentrated on weightier matters like getting the amount of caviar on his cracker just so.
He was never one to put Descartes before the horse.
It wasn’t as if Fearless’ feet were being held to the fire either. He dispensed advice freely whether people listened or not: they didn’t. He diligently continued to attend Parliament, an act that compelled Scruffy A to plead yet another reason to postpone the trial.
He even put out videos of his exercise regimen – planking and weights. Indeed, it appeared that the only inconvenience dealt to the unflappable Fearless was his conviction, which effectively ruled him out as a candidate in the next general election.
The other thing that had changed was that the dynamic duo had fallen out. Now the main plank of Fearless defence was that it was all Felonious’ fault, and that he’d been merely guilty of a silly, and misplaced, trust in a friend; that he’d been “more sinned against than sinning.”
The idea had come from the learned jurist Scruffy A, whose inspired decision-making stemmed from a long political tradition of blaming others for the really serious errors.
In between flutes of the good stuff, Felonious sympathised because he understood. Had the shoe been on the other foot, he would have done the same.
Thank God it wasn’t, he reflected cheerfully, and decided he could, and would, drink to that.


ENDS

FINALLY, IT’S PROVEN THAT GOLDMAN SUCKS

The felonious fatty, known as Jho Low, had mixed feelings about the whole thing. Quite a “yes and no” type situation. 

On the one hand, he was saddened that Goldman Sachs, a former friend and more-than-willing ally, had been rewarded with a public flogging and fines of over US$5 billion for its role in the 1MDB debacle. 

On the other hand, he felt positively elated and brimming over with what the French term la joie de vivre. “It could have been much, much worse,” he confided to his father in between sips of a delightfully ice-cold 1977 Chardonnay. “It might have been us.” 

His pater, the dashingly-moustached Hairy Low felt a certain disquiet at his son’s use of the pronoun (“us”) but still awarded himself full marks on his prescient foresight of sending his son to study at the prestigious Wharton School in the University of Pennsylvania all those years ago.  

The products of that school were the sort of people most people would want, nay, need to know, reflected the urbane co-conspirator, with a dashing twirl of his moustache.  

But only two were really famous. 

One was the current President of the United States and the other was a very rich and a very sought after Felonious, his beloved son and the ample apple of his aged eyes. 

There was no doubt that Felonious was much sought after but it certainly wasn’t as an after dinner speaker. His erstwhile boss, mentor and help-mate, Fearless Leader, wanted to blame him while Malaysia’s top cop, Abdul Hamid Bador, wanted to jail him.

The US wanted to question him, Singapore wanted to flog him and the banks in Switzerland only wanted to learn at his feet. 

Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff wanted his autograph – he wanted to be just like him when he grew up – while it wasn’t clear what exactly Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman, at the material time when Felonious was Tripping his Blight Fantastic, wanted with the cherubic charlatan. 

But it looked as if there was murder in his eyes. 

Goldman was pilloried after the 2008 Global  Financial Crisis as an archetypal symbol of Wall Street greed: it misleadingly hawked highly dubious mortgage-backed securities as gilt-edged bonds and tried to sell out before the bottom fell out of the market, which added momentum to the downward spiral. 

It paid fines but no one was charged. With Fearless running defence, Felonious might have singlehandedly changed all that. 

Goldman’s costs from the scandal hurtled beyond US$5 billion on Thursday, while a subsidiary pleaded guilty to a US criminal charge for the first time in the firm’s history. 

The parent company entered a deal to spare itself a conviction that could cripple business, by promising to behave.

And both CEO David Solomon and predecessor Lloyd Blankfein got a rare rebuke: they have to give up pay, attaching personal accountability to two of the industry’s most visible leaders for a scandal spanning the globe.

The accords lift a legal cloud that formed during Blankfein’s tenure and remained through the handoff to Solomon two years ago. 

It could account for the look in Blankfein’s eyes: he had always maintained he’d never even met the fat fraud. 

Get over it, advised the ever-philosophical Felonious. He was eager to get on with a new scheme.

But for some strange reason the Chinese banks seemed reluctant to give him credit for his ideas. 

HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY THE VICTORS

You might say Fearless Leader was back. 

Or maybe he never left. For a former leader with a 12-year prison sentence hanging like the kris of Hang Lekiu over his greying head, Fearless seemed remarkably cheerful as he tramped the hills and dales of Sabah campaigning for the Barisan Nasional (BN). 

Indefatigable was the word to describe Fearless and, watching from his safe haven not in China, Felonious aka Jho the Low, an erstwhile aide-de-camp and not-so-trusty sidekick, whistled admiringly. 

While not safely ensconced in China, Felonious was also rich beyond the dreams of avarice. The fact that Fearless wasn’t safe at all was what elicited the whistle of admiration in the first place but Felonious was nothing if not philosophical. One out of two was still good, shrugged the ample artist. 

“You can’t have everything,” concluded the round robber before turning his attention to more weightier matters of state like how much he had to pay the authorities for another year of not staying in China. It brought a proud smile to Papa Low’s face: that’s my boy, he thought affectionately, always a stickler for detail. 

And it was true too. Detail had been one of the comely girls Felonious had dated in Hollywood but that, grumbled Fearless, was neither “here nor there”. 

“What about me?” grumbled Fearless Leader and it was a good, if loaded, question. 

It was good because its right answer was invariably bad where Fearless was concerned and it was loaded because it looked like he might soon be shot into that place where, without collecting $200, one goes directly to.

How had it come to this? 

The kindly kleptocrat had followed all the right measures, listened to the right people, even read Lloyd George: “To be a successful politician, you have to learn to bury your conscience.” 

Felonious didn’t know about the former but he knew quite a bit about consciences. A pleasantly piquant 1976 Dom Ruinart Blanc would bury it pretty deep, agreed the beefy bandit cheerfully. 

And yet, Fearless remained cool under pressure. This was unlike Mrs Fearless who no longer had anything to say and was saying it so loudly that her silence was deafening. 

It was seriously out of character and it put to the lie the so-called wisdom that she had been the real power behind the throne. 

Nope, it had been Fearless all along. He remained calm, however, by dint of blame: he blamed everyone from Felonious and the bankers to Goldman Sachs and the lawyers. 

In between, he blamed the takers as well, arguing that “if they did not take, he would not have had to give.” It was a compelling argument   which, unfortunately, had no takers. 

Fearless even contemplated blaming it on the bossa-nova and had to be talked out of it by his lawyer, the eminent Scruffy A who took time off his tax-dodging troubles to remonstrate with his client. 

Blame was all right but what Fearless really needed was a good, old-fashioned miracle. He was optimistic and was nothing, if not religious, which was unlike his not-so-trusty sidekick, Felonious, whose faith was such that the church he did not attend was Christian on its off-days. 

You could not say the same about Fearless. Historians will attest that he whispered a mumbled prayer immediately after being sworn in in 2009. 

It was soft but it was clear. “Let us prey,” was the humble entreaty. And the rest, as they say, is history.  

SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A BIG WAD OF CASH

There but for the grace of Beijing go I, breathed Felonious and shuddered so violently that he required two more goblets of soothing Dom Perignon to restore his customary good cheer. 

The chortling char siew, as he was fondly described in Hollywood circles, once thought there were lessons to be learnt in this instance. 

Crime did pay – for nine years at least – until you got caught. And it could have been worse, he told Hairy, his moustache-flashing father, “it could have been me.”  

Or me, thought Hairy Low, his moustache flashing triumphantly because in their case, it was still paying and then some. 

The object of their ruminations was Felonious’ one-time taiko and old-round, best buddy Fearless Leader who had been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million to boot. 

Fearless had the finest lawyer money could buy in the form of Scruffy A, a pit-bull with a beard. Scruffy’s fees alone might have been punishment enough for Fearless, but the man had also come up with a compelling legal defence. 

Shorn of its legal rhetoric, and there were a great many, it boiled down to three phrases: “Who, me?”, “I didn’t know anything”, and “It was all Fatso’s fault.” 

Scruffy was proud of his erudite counsel and thought the latter defence especially brilliant. Alas, his brilliance was extinguished by a no-nonsense Judge Nazlan who dismissed it as “far-fetched, defying logic” and “lacking in credulity.” In short, what Scruffy thought had been lucid reason and sweet clarity, Judge Nazlan ruled as bunkum, hogwash and – his last offer – poppycock.

Indeed, the judge privately thought that even the Boston Strangler had put up a better showing. Still, after all the sound and fury, the tale told by an idiot signifying nothing, it had taken the better part of two years for Fearless’ trial to wend its way through court. 

Even so, the gallant Fearless remained undaunted and promised that an appeal would clear his name. Instead of waiting for said appeal, Scruffy enumerated Judge Nazlan’s “many mistakes” to the media although he magnanimously conceded that the mistakes had all been “honest”. 

But for all of Fearless smugness outside the court, he must have been dismayed by the international headlines he provoked the day after. 

An Australian newspaper ran “Plundering idiot” on its front page while the New York Times had “The fall of Malaysia’s Man of Steal” as its headline. 

On a note of accuracy: If you thought the NYT was punny, you should think local cartoonist Zunar, whose original it is. The paper had written to him asking permission to use it and he’d agreed. 

Fearless had liked Zunar well enough when he was busy skewering Dr M or Abdullah Badawi, but he’d thought the reference to a Super-thief had been in poor taste.

Fearless had been surprised when his coalition lost the 2018 election. But in truth, it wasn’t so surprising: the people had simply read between the lies.

It was that loss that had undone them both, thought Felonious sadly for he longed for the glory days of Equanimity and ice-cold white wine on its moonlit deck. 

The dumpy dim-sum concluded that the secret of success lay in not getting caught. And Felonious resolved to do so by emulating Teddy Roosevelt. 

Henceforth, he would always speak softly and carry a big wad of cash.

Is there honour among thieves? Nah!!

Here we go again! 

According to a report in the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, the US investment banker that helped birth a gigantic fraud at the 1Malaysia Development Fund (1MDB), is attempting to get US federal prosecutors to ease up on the bank’s role in the scandal. 

The report stated that lawyers for Goldman Sachs had asked US Deputy Attorney-General Jeffery Rosen to review demands by certain federal prosecutors that Goldman Sachs pay more than US$2bil (RM8.5bil) in fines and plead guilty to a charge.

The report said that the bank was also seeking to pay lower fines and to avoid a guilty plea altogether. It quoted sources as speaking on the condition of anonymity as the talks were currently ongoing.

“The request, which was made several weeks ago, is not unusual for a high-profile corporate investigation and often comes in the final stage of settlement talks,” said the paper. 

“But it has been a point of pride for Goldman that it has never had to admit guilt in a federal investigation, and the scandal has already been a black eye for the bank,” the report said.

That could be understating it considerably. For its part, Malaysia got a lot more than a black eye. 1MDB’s protagonists earned the dubious distinction of perpetrating the world’s biggest-ever fraud.

But “point of pride” and “never had to admit guilt”? Surely you jest, Goldman?

It’s not as if the investment bank had an unblemished reputation.

In 2009, for example, a Rolling Stone article by Matt Tiabbi unforgettably described Goldman Sachs as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”. 

So much for “point of principle.’ 

According to the US Justice Department, Goldman Sachs earned USD$600mil (RM2.56bil) in fees for raising US$6bil (RM25.6bil) for 1MDB.

Tim Leissner, the Goldman employee in Asia, had admitted that he and others at the investment firm  had conspired to circumvent the bank’s internal control to work with fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho – known as Felonious to friends and the police alike – to bribe Malaysian officials in order to secure the lucrative bond work for the bank.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since. 

A government has collapsed under the weight of 1MDB and its leader – Fearless to all and sundry – has been tried and is awaiting a verdict in July 

Felonious is still at large and he corpulently continues to cast a sizeable shadow over the Malaysian body politic. As is his wont, he prefers to cast that shadow as far away from Malaysia as possible. 

Fearless hasn’t changed much though. He continues to try and assert himself although it’s doubtful if he will ever be taken seriously again.  

He, however, does admit 1MDB might have been a mistake. 

He has since come to the revelation that Malaysia “had been cheated.” By Felonious! Peerless also claimed that “it was clear” that Goldman had also failed.

He had clearly been thinking the matter over the last two years and seemed to have all the answers. 

And like the Oracle of Delphi of bygone days, Fearless pronounced his Truth. It was actually everyone – “the investment bank, the lawyers and the auditors” – who had all let us, all of us, the whole country, down. 

Everyone but him.