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

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.