THE MAKING OF A MALAYSIAN METAPHOR 

When Jho “Felonious” Low recently boasted about losing 10 pounds, Macao remained indifferent. 

Even scornful.

“Hallelujah,” growled the Times’ social-affairs columnist through gritted teeth.  A dour, dyspeptic dragon, she loathed show-offs who snacked on caviar and crackers, and her next sentence was positively dripping with bile.

“That’s like removing a deck chair off the QE2,” she snarled, and all Macao knew there was a trend afoot.

The term “fugitive Malaysian” may soon descend into the realms of hackneyed cliché like a “no brainer” or a “sticky wicket.” 

Indeed, at one dizzying, moment, Malaysia briefly threatened to punch above its weight in the master criminal sweepstakes because we boasted not one, but two fugitives.  

The parallels seemed disquieting enough to give social scientists pause. Both the fugitives were slick, both, fat and both were from Penang. 

Was this the triumph of char kway teow over common sense?

Maybe not. “Fat Leonard” was rearrested Tuesday in Caracas.   

According to Reuters, Leonard was the mastermind behind one of the largest bribery scandals in US military history. 

The Malaysian fugitive’s  alarming propensity for shattering dubious world records is an alarming new trend. Like Charles Ponzi, a future global crime is sure to be named after its Malaysian architect in such florid prose as “a monstrous fraud, huge and epic in all its convoluted, Jho-Low’ian proportions.” 

Now there’s a Malaysian metaphor for the world stage. 

Leonard Glenn Francis didn’t know what Felonious had been smoking but he wished he had some. He’d cut off his GPS ankle bracelet before fleeing from house arrest in San Diego. He’d been awaiting sentence over a bribery scheme that lasted over a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officers.

The flabby flatterer had bribed enough US naval brass to secure  lucrative contracts for his global ship-service business. 

But when he escaped three weeks ago, the US pulled out all the stops. Ten American  agencies searched for him and authorities offered a US$40,000 (RM182,000) reward for his arrest.

The re-arrested reprobate isn’t a happy camper. For one, he wished he’d been 50-lb lighter so the US Press might dub him Lissom Leonard but, fat chance!  For another, he was peeved with the bounty on his head which he felt was too small for a Smooth Criminal.   

Unlike Felonious, Francis had actually pleaded guilty in 2015 for  criminal inducement.  Felonious had merely returned assets – a yacht, a plane, art, houses, jewellery – worth billions in pleas “not amounting to an admission of guilt.” In Leonard’s book, that made Felonious “stupid.” But he was free and he wasn’t.

Fat Leonard had been caught offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than US$500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company.

Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least US$35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.

The plump ex-Penangite had been contemptuous of the officers he’d bribed – he called them “animals” in one video – while claiming “cover-up” as his tentacles had allegedly reached up to the admirals in charge. Although over 30 officers have been convicted, no one in the Naval High Command has been indicted.  

Meanwhile, the beefy brigand had been a heartbeat away from being forever extradition-free.

In Caracas, he’d been stopped from boarding a flight to Moscow. 

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

IT’S ALWAYS ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS

If the authorities haven’t realised it by now, here’s the newsflash: there’s something wrong about our justice system where white collar crooks are concerned.

And I’m not talking about Fearless or Wannabe Leader, that dynamic duo of irredeemably impeachable integrity.

Remember Transmile?

In the early 2000s, it was all the rage, the darling of the equity market. Its prices kept defying gravity and institutional funds queued up to get a slice of the firm. It had gilt-edged shareholders, too, including the country’s richest man, Robert Kuok and Pos Malaysia.

But Kuok was a passive investor with no part in the firm’s management. And like America’s Enron, it turned out that Transmile’s success was fraudulent and mired in financial misstatements.

In 2007, the stock crashed when its revenue overstatements became clear. A special audit concluded that the 2005 and 2006 financial years were also overstated.

Transmile suffered losses of RM126.3 million (reported profit RM157.5 million) in 2006. In 2005, it chalked up losses of RM369.6 million instead of the RM84.4 million profit it declared.

Investors lost millions. So did Mr Kuok and the government. And employees lost sleep, self-respect and ultimately their jobs when the chartered air-freight operator was delisted in 2011.

In 2007, the Securities Commission charged the firm’s founder and CEO Gan Boon Aun for misrepresenting Transmile’s figures. Last year, he was found guilty by the Sessions Court and sentence to a day’s jail and a RM2.5 million fine.

Now, there’s deterrence for you!

Here’s how Gan’s 2007 trial went, and note that the Sessions Court is but the first prong in a four-pronged court process that stretches to the Federal Court. He was called to enter his defence in 2011 but his defence only commenced seven years later, in 2018.

Why, you will ask?

Well, Gan, now newly-anointed legal eagle, decided to mount a constitutional challenge of the law under which he was charged. Having exhausted that, it was back to the drawing board in 2018 and, finally, conviction in 2020.

His appeal against his conviction was fixed for a year later, namely now.

Not surprisingly, Gan’s decided that the way to go was to never darken the doorsteps of the Malaysian authorities anymore and so appears to have skipped town.

Truly, he was reading from the Gospel of Felonious (aka Jho Low), the less-than trusty sidekick of Fearless who, having judiciously weighed the balance of probabilities in his case, concluded that it was better to be safe than sorry.

It was better to claim innocence in the luxurious confines of Macao than sweating it out in Kuala Lumpur. Although he could now see the merits of Fearless’ strategy of paying handsome legal fees to permanently stay in trials while recouping political mileage.

An arrest warrant has since been issued against Gan but as Felonious might say “warrant, schmarrant!”

Where was Gan? Well, he still has a perfectly valid Malaysian passport so we can safely conclude that he is neither in North Korea nor Israel. Apart from that, your guess is as good as the Securities Commission’s.

It took 14 years for Gan to lose the first round of his case. So it might be no exaggeration to conclude that, with sufficient funds for a stout defence, he might have stayed out till hell froze over. But, much to the chagrin of the legal profession, he chose to skip town.

Still, when it came to the “moral misconduct” of a former deputy premier, the wheels of justice moved with uncharacteristic speed.

Miracles do occur, it seems.

Sometimes.

ENDS

WE SAY GOOD-BYE, HE SAYS HELLO

I suspect Malaysian voters might be collectively suffering electile dysfunction – an inability to become aroused over any of our choices for prime minister.

Our current incumbent has all the charisma of a melancholy sponge, a ranking only slightly above that achieved by his dour predecessor. Meanwhile, the most energetic contender of all promises to be as old as Methuselah by the time he assumes office.

That might be the reason why Fearless Leader, a jaunty brigand much beloved by Patek Philippe, may be plotting his Big Comeback.

Actually, Fearless had never been away. Despite having been convicted of corruption and abuse of power by Malaysia’s High Court, Fearless remains free on bail and relentlessly continues to advise, chastise, browbeat, and taunt the government without a care in the world, behaving as if he’d never left the political stage in the first place.

And that’s the rub. He intends to remain and, preferably, to stay.

In a breakfast meeting with several reporters last week, Fearless blithely revealed that he intended to defend his parliamentary seat of Pekan in the next general election.

Does he know something the rest of us don’t?

The Malaysian Constitution expressly forbids a convicted person from contesting an election. It also forbids a tax dodger from doing the same. Fearless had struck out on both counts, so what was he talking about?

From across the seas, his less-than-trusty sidekick, the flabby Felonious aka Jho the Low, felt the wellsprings of hope stir anew in his bosom.

He’d begun to feel reassured last month, first after Umno, a party after his ow heart, had retaken control of the federal government and, second, when transgender and cosmetics entrepreneur, Nur Sajat, had supplanted him on the country’s Most Wanted list.

Felonious missed the Big Game, the time when he pulled the strings from afar, the heady period when he was the Lord of Pretty Much All That He Surveyed.

He lived for today, he stole for tomorrow, and he partied tonight. And, along the way, he’d amassed art, jewellery, mansions, and a super-yacht.

It had all been confiscated of course, but what a ride he’d had, what a rush! You couldn’t take that away from him.

Now it was not much fun anymore, although there was much to be said about lolling by the pool sipping Cristal champers. He was grateful. Indeed, he was the first to concede that Macao was a far more salubrious location to be in than, say, Kuala Lumpur, even with Umno back in harness.

Still, the sticky problem of which country he might legitimately enter always loomed before him like irritating question-marks. They were elusive too, not unlike the citizenships these countries refuse to let him buy.

But perhaps Fearless’ re-entry into politics could prove his salvation.

On the latter count, Felonious’ premise could be seriously flawed. Throughout his premiership, Fearless had stoutly maintained that Felonious had nothing whatsoever to do with 1MDB. Or that it had even been looted!

After his ouster, he changed tack, claiming that Felonious was wholly responsible for Everything, and The Kitchen Sink.

If you were a chess player, you might see why that might not be such a good defence.

Let’s just hope that comedian Bill Maher wasn’t referring to us when he said, “In this country, you’re guilty until proven wealthy.”

ENDS

BEWARE THE CAMEL IN THE TENT

Imagine that!

CNN reported Thursday that an Australian musk-duck had been recorded saying quite clearly; “You bloody fool.” The network said it was the “first documented instance of the species mimicking human speech.”

Consider it a latter-day miracle, even some celestial advice. When ducks are given tongue, man should listen, none more so than Malaysia’s timid Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The guy is Malaysia’s 9th premier and, by all accounts, a secure one: he’s even got a cooperation agreement with the opposition, a move that vaults him into near-political impregnability.

And what does he do, this most timorous of leaders? He tries to placate everyone, to the detriment of societal mores and the rule of law.

Last week, the government proposed Ahmad Maslan, an MP from Johor and Umno’s secretary-general, as deputy speaker for Parliament.

Never mind that Mr Ahmad could always be counted on as a reliable sounding board on policy matters: he wasn’t known as Mat “Good Idea Boss” Maslan for nothing.

No, it’s the fact that he was, and remains, charged for money laundering by the country’s corruption agency and is awaiting trial.

What kind of message does Putrajaya think it sends the Malaysian people or the world at large by such appointments? That crime pays: a deputy speaker’s salary is not to be sneezed at.

It trivialises corruption at best and, at worst, it implies a foregone conclusion on his matter.

It might get worse. Singapore’s Straits Times reported that Ismail was considering appointing former premier Najib Razak as a government Economic Advisor. It was clearly a trial balloon. And as if to provide ballast to the attempt, Umno’s Nazri Aziz said it would be a waste not to do so “given his experience.”

Najib is many times removed from Ahmad Maslan. He is a criminal convicted of the world’s biggest theft and we are now asked to believe the government “needs” his advice? Are we that bankrupt of talent?

If so…

Quick! Let’s get Jho Low back to advise the central bank how to plug money laundering holes in the banking system.

Whatever happened to shame as a concept?

And while Ismail’s insecurity is displayed for the world to see, former diplomat Dennis Ignatius warns that the country is sliding faster into Islamic-type statehood than anyone realises. This is, of course, due to Pas’ current control of the federal religious agencies like Jakim.

Pas should give thanks to the former PH government. It could never dream of making it into the federal government on its own. But by preying on Malay fears of losing political dominance – aided and abetted by the ever-reliable Dr M – it’s managed to sneak into the Malay coalition now governing Malaysia.

Never mind it’s a weak party with far less popular support than, say, the DAP or PKR, it still controls the most influential lever over the country’s majority people – Islam. Indirectly, that translates into enormous influence over the whole country – unless there is check and balance.

That’s why Pas is the most committed to ensure the permanence of the three-party Malay coalition now in power. It’s never had it so good.

If history is any judge, everyone should worry about this trend going forward.
Because the Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, has never made any secret of its over-arching ambition for Malaysia.

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. 

JUST GRIN AND “BEAR” IT.

The Malaysian police recently revealed that the plump pilferer alias His Awesome Ampleness Jho bin Low was at one point hiding out in Wuhan.

If true, it would make for no small irony as the villainous virus would then have met up with his infectious counterpart with quite possibly interesting results all round. 

Alas, there is no new intelligence on whether the dumpy dacoit has since fled the city at the centre of the global Covid-19 outbreak.

In any case, the cherubic crook’s status has evolved over time. Once thought to be but an ample accomplice in the 1MDB heist, court testimony in the trial of its alleged pink-lipped principal has moved to shift the blame on to Fatso’s well-upholstered shoulders. 

Fearless Leader, who once vowed in Parliament that the smiling shark had nothing to do with 1MDB, now alleges that it was the same beaming brigand that not only took him, but the country, for an epic ride.  

As Fearless’ prosecutors might question: “Et Tu Brute?” Fat-boy agreed it was brutish and wished his erstwhile friend had blamed it on the bossa nova like most sensible people.    

The bandit was no-longer beaming. Instead, he felt sick to his stomach. 

It led to Malaysia’s alert and always intrepid Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador to shrewdly speculate that the villainous varmint might have contracted the virus.

He said that if the massive miscreant had indeed contracted the disease, “he should return to Malaysia where the treatment is the best.”

The civilised conman declined the offer courteously. And he did so in the full knowledge that he could buy a few hospitals if need be: the proceeds from the crime of the century is estimated at between US$4.5-7.9 billion (MYR18.6-33 billion)

China has always denied the Plump One’s presence. The South China Morning Post reported, however, that a spokesperson for the ne’er-do-well has disclosed that the round robber was hiding out in a country that “acts in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights”.

China would heartily agree with that description of itself. 

Late last year Abdul Hamid had bemoaned the scuppering of the manhunt for Low by “dishonest” foreign state authorities who were allegedly protecting the fugitive.

But the strangest spin was given on the story by the Hong Kong-based paper. The IGP was quoted by the SCMP as saying:

“Among the excuses they gave include Jho Low apparently having changed his looks by undergoing facial surgery to look like a bear.”

“Sometimes when he walks, he looks like a [bear]. So, when we look at him from behind, that is how he looks. Do you think this excuse [given by the authorities of the country Jho Low is hiding in] is logical?”

Think about it. This is a man who’s allegedly stolen more money than Croesus’ net worth: who’s able to afford to look like Brad Pitt but, if the Chinese are to be believed, prefers to look like Yogi. 

So, the next time someone says, “Bear in mind”, don’t immediately visualise Paddington.

Think Low Teck Jho.