Scandal-hit 1MDB should halt further business deals
KUALA LUMPUR: A major Singapore business newspaper has ventured in an op-ed, for 1MDB, it cannot be business as usual, that the Ministry of Finance-owned strategic investment arm should not be engaging in further deals when it is reportedly under investigation.
Besides, 1MDB has seen a redrawing of the battle lines in Malaysian politics with calls for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to step down and others, including his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, criticising him.
The Business Times was referring to a land deal where 1MDB left the Lembaga Tabung Haji with 1.56 acres of land in Kuala Lumpur for a whopping RM188.5 million. “It should not be making major business decisions like these. It should not have been allowed to do so.”
“The controversy arises because 1MDB has not addressed various allegations and struggled to repay a RM2 billion loan.”
It’s a question of ethics, the paper stressed, and pointed out that both the Auditor General’s Office (A-G) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have yet to reveal their findings, if any, so far.
“The reality is that when it comes to 1MDB and for as long as trust remains broken and the outcome of the probe was not yet known, commercial merits on their own are insufficient grounds to embark on any deals, in whatever shape and form, involving the firm and public funds,” said the paper.
If 1MDB had aspired for a business-as-usual backdrop to conduct its strategic review, the paper added, then it should have stepped up its response to the controversy and put the allegations to rest without having to wait for the outcome of the investigations. “But it hasn’t done this.”
“There’s lack of progress on the probes ordered in March.”
Interestingly, besides a change of CEO, the 1MDB board members remain the same. “This is the same board that oversaw the RM42 billion debts chalked up by the company (in five years) and none have been charged, let alone implicated.”
“This is despite the inability of the firm to dismiss the various allegations.”
In the wake of the land deal, the paper said, the conflict of interest situation involving both LTH and 1MDB have become more apparent. “Ismee Ismail is the pilgrim fund’s CEO and 1MDB board director, although it was clarified on Saturday that he abstained from voting on the deal.”
Aside from Ismee, Irwan Siregar, the secretary-general of the Finance Ministry which owns 1MDB, advises it, and is a director of LTH.