Najib abused legal system to jail me, says Anwar

KUALA LUMPUR — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak abused the country’s legal system to imprison him a second time for sodomy.

In an interview with The Observer, the sister paper to the UK’s The Guardian, Anwar also said “if the 2013 elections had been free and fair, we would have won and I would not be in jail”.

The PKR de facto leader told the newspaper he had, for a time, been frustrated by Malaysia’s institutions before coming to terms with its frailties and abusers.

“After you have experienced jail for a long time, after so many years, you don’t really have that bitterness. I’m not pretending to be this great humanitarian, merciful person, but honestly I didn’t feel bitter,” Anwar said in response to questions seeking his views on the country’s justice system.

“In the end you philosophise and just accept the unfolding drama.”

The former deputy prime minister, who was first charged with sodomy in 1999 under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration, also said his children were initially unhappy and had disagreed with the call for reconciliation by Dr Mahathir.

Although he was suspicious at the beginning, he decided to give it a chance after discussing with Dr Mahathir, and believed the latter had mellowed with age.

“My children refused to participate, and were in tears in the corner. They couldn’t understand why I would meet this man who made their life hell. They disagreed with me, told me I should not make a deal with Mahathir, said to me ‘you suffered, we all suffered, because of him’.

“It was very difficult for me and initially I said to Mahathir: ‘Why would I want to have anything to do with you any more? I will forgive you, but goodbye: that’s it’.

“But after we talked and knowing the man as I do ― filled as he is with self-confidence, self-indulgent at times ― suddenly coming to see me, his nemesis, in prison, was a sign that he was really desperate or he had really mellowed quite a bit. And that was precisely what had happened.”

Anwar was reported to have told his children it was difficult to turn down an offer by his former nemesis to reconcile and forget the past.

Though he said Dr Mahathir did not apologise for the past ordeal, it was adequate the latter had conceded he should not have fired Anwar then.

“Coming from Mahathir, is good enough for me,” he added.

Dr Mahathir led Pakatan Harapan to win the 14th general election and revealed soon after he was sworn in as prime minister that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V had expressed readiness to pardon Anwar.

His office then arranged a Pardons Board hearing, resulting in Anwar’s exculpation and immediate release from his five-year prison term on Wednesday.

The pardon is crucial for Anwar to contest and win a federal seat to be eligible to succeed Dr Mahathir as prime minister.

The turn of events gained a karmic quality last week. While Anwar’s legal troubles melted away, the same was beginning to build for Najib, who is under a money-laundering investigation related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Anwar offered sage advice to his political rival in the area with which he became painfully familiar: Criminal trials.

“Have good defence lawyers. And express remorse,” he reported said.

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Ramkarpal denounces ‘insulting’ demand by Sirul

KUALA LUMPUR — Former police commando Sirul Azhar Umar’s demand for complete absolution in return for divulging information on the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu is “downright insulting”, said DAP’s Ramkarpal Singh.

The Bukit Gelugor MP condemned the fugitive murder convict for his purported “offer” as reported by a news portal, saying it demonstrated Sirul’s lack of remorse for killing the Mongolian model.

Among others, he pointed out, Sirul has previously attested to killing others besides Altantuya on orders, saying this showed the Mongolian was clearly not his only victim.

The lawyer suggested it would be better for Putrajaya to assure Canberra that Sirul would not be put to death in Malaysia over the murder conviction, noting the only obstacle to Sirul’s extradition is the death sentence he received for killing Altantuya.

“If the said death penalty is commuted to life imprisonment, the Australian government will most certainly deport him to Malaysia to serve his sentence here,” Ramkarpal said in a statement.

He said Sirul could be “compelled” to share the information he claims to know once he is back in Malaysia.

Ramkarpal also expressed doubt over how much Sirul knew of the events leading to the murder, suggesting that a former aide-de-camp to Datuk Seri Najib Razak by the name of Musa Safri would be a more credible source of the information.

“The fact remains that Sirul and Azilah (former police Special Action Force officer Azilah Hadri) murdered Altantuya in the most grotesque of circumstances.

“As such, Sirul is certainly in no position to bargain his way out of paying for such a tragedy and he must be deported to Malaysia in the manner suggested to once and for all put a close to the mystery of who ordered the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu.”

Sirul and Azilah were charged with murdering Altantuya in 2008 and convicted by the High Court the following year.

In 2013, the appellate court acquitted both men, but the Federal Court reversed the acquittal last January and sentenced both to death.

Sirul fled the country for Australia before the Federal Court decision and remains in custody there.

Altantuya had been linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, a former Najib aide who brokered the deal for Malaysia to buy two Scorpene-class submarines from French defence firm DCNS while Najib was defence minister.

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Rosmah: I hold no grudges, focus now is to protect family

KUALA LUMPUR — Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor said she bore no grudges against former allies who turned on her and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak following Barisan Nasional’s general election defeat.

In an exclusive interview with Malay Mail on Saturday, Rosmah, who seemed at ease in her yellow, flowing kaftan and reading glasses, recounted a life spent in the limelight and said she hoped their troubles will soon be over.

“It’s normal in politics. When you’re up, everybody adores us, but when you have problem, it is expected. It is just part and parcel of life,” she said.

“I don’t mind. It’s OK. Everybody has got their right about what they want to say.”

Rosmah stressed that her focus now was only to protect her family and herself.

Some BN leaders such as Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin appeared to blame Najib for the election defeat, claiming they did not dare speak out for fear of reprisal.

In 2015, Najib purged his then deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal from the Cabinet for being critical of the handling of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib has resigned as Umno president and BN chairman.

Despite a series of raids on her home in Jalan Langgak Duta here, Rosmah appeared upbeat.

However, she expressed hope of soon returning to a normal life with her family.

“We are taking it quite well. I think we’re quite relaxed, being a family of politicians. This is just one of those trials and tribulations, hazards of being in politics,” Rosmah added.

She was accompanied by her lawyers, Datuk Geethan Ram Vincent and M. Puravalen, throughout the interview, together with several close aides.

“It’s another life, but I’m not complaining. I’m not asking for this kind of life, but it’s a much more relaxed life when I can do my thing. When I feel like sleeping, I can sleep, when I feel like waking up I can wake up.

“But I would like this to be over as soon as possible, because we want to move on with our lives.”

She also asked that police treat her and her family with the courtesy they were entitled to as Malaysians.”

“I can take all the pre-dawn raids. I understand,” she said.

“I believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Otherwise, we have to be treated like normal human beings. The right to dignity.”

Expensive haul puts ex-PM’s wife in spotlight

KUALA LUMPUR ― In early 2015, as Malaysians were protesting over government plans to introduce a consumption tax, the then first lady complained about the rising costs of her hairdresser.

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor lamented in a speech, at a public forum on the implementation of the tax, she had to pay RM1,200 to her hairdresser for one hair-dyeing session, at a time when the minimum wage in Malaysia was RM900 a month.

Her comments angered many Malaysians, who had already noticed her luxury watches and handbags in public appearances with her husband Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

But with tight controls on the media, there was little open criticism of her lavish lifestyle.

Now, after Friday’s seizure by police of hundreds of bags, including expensive Hermes ones, and a stash of jewellery from apartment units where Najib’s family was living, public attention is focusing on Rosmah.

An unshackled media and many Malaysians are openly demanding to know how Rosmah was able to afford an opulent lifestyle. Many have compared her with Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than 1,200 pairs of shoes when her husband Ferdinand Marcos was ousted as president of the Philippines in 1986.

Rosmah has long defended her tastes.

“There are some accessories and clothes that I have bought with my own money. What is wrong with that?” Rosmah, 66, was quoted as saying in an authorised biography published in 2013, when asked about criticism over her opulent lifestyle.

“As a woman and wife of a leader, I have to look made up, neat and take care of my appearance. It is also embarrassing for Malaysians when other countries make fun of the sloppy wife of Malaysia’s prime minister,” she said.

Rosmah, through her lawyers, issued a statement on Saturday to address “the recent spate of events leading to the media hailstorm” and asked authorities to follow the rule of law and due process to avoid a premature public trial.

Since Najib was defeated in the elections, he has become the subject of a money-laundering probe and, along with Rosmah, has been barred from leaving the country.

The new government is investigating allegations of fraud and corruption at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Najib. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The US Department of Justice alleged in civil lawsuits last year that some of the funds stolen from 1MDB were used to buy jewellery, including US$27 million (RM107 million) for a rare pink diamond and another US$1.3 million (RM5.16 million) for 27 gold necklace

Nearly 300 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery were among the items taken away by police last week from the properties linked to Najib’s family.

Items such as Birkin handbags from Hermes and watches were among the items seized, police said. The police did not say who the bags belonged to.

Birkin bags, favoured by celebrities like Victoria Beckham, can be worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The seizure before dawn on Friday came hours after a photo of Dr Mahathir wearing what appeared to be US$3 (RM11.92) Bata sandals went viral on social media, drawing comparisons between the two leaders.

Local media reports said 52 designer handbags with brand names like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta were also seized from Najib’s private residence.

Rosmah’s beginnings were humble. She was born in 1951 in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan.

According to her 2013 biography, she studied sociology and anthropology at a local public university, before pursuing a masters degree at Louisiana State University in the United States

In her biography, she mentions her financial difficulties as a student and in her first job at an agriculture bank, where she earned RM800 a month.

She stopped working in 1987 to focus on starting a family with Najib, who was then the youth and sports minister, according to the biography.

After Najib became prime minister, Rosmah focused on charity work and sports advocacy.

In the last pages of her biography, Rosmah asks for Malaysians to accept her as she is.

“I hope people accept the reality that I am a regular human being. I am not perfect,” she says. ― Reuters

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How one seized handbag compares with cops’ wages

KUALA LUMPUR — The recent police raids on properties linked to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak have so far involved confiscation of hundreds of high-end handbags.

This brings to mind the question: How much might one of these luxury handbags compare in value to the police investigating team’s combined salary?

From the first night at Najib’s personal residence, a police report that has emerged stated the seizure of 52 luxury handbags, including 16 Chanel bags, 10 Gucci bags, eight Versace bags, five Oscar de la Renta bags, four Louis Vuitton bags, two Prada and two Roberto Cavali bags.

Single items of other brands such as Michael Kors and Loewe were also listed.

The report mostly mentioned the colours of the seized handbags and not their particular model, and prices of these items — which may breach the RM10,000 mark — vary according to the season and are not always readily available.

But some guesstimates might be possible.

The most expensive handbag now sold on the Gucci website is priced at US$31,000 (RM123,318), while the second-highest is at US$14,000 (RM55,692).

The current priciest models available on the websites of entry-level high-end brands such as Michael Kors and Loewe go for US$18,000 (RM71,604) and US$3,390 (RM13,485).

A team of 35 police personnel of varying ranks and seniority were said to be involved in this raid, namely two senior assistant commissioners, one assistant commissioner of police, five superintendents, three deputy superintendents, two assistant superintendents, two inspectors, one sub-inspectors and 18 others.

As the salary for police personnel varies not just based on their rank or salary grade but also their years of service, it is only possible to do a crude estimate.

Based on past news reports of revised pay grades in 2013 and a 2015 circular by the Public Service Department on the minimum and maximum pay schedule for civil servants, Malay Mail was able to do a rough back of the envelope calculation on the possible combined salary of the police investigators — assuming the 18 were constables (the lowest in the hierarchy).

Using the minimum monthly wages and the likely lowest pay that the team of 35 police personnel could receive, it could possibly come up to at least around RM35,130.

Using the maximum monthly wages from the 2015 pay schedule, it could possibly come up to at least around RM210,975.

So how does it compare? Well, it could be anywhere from a handbag or two or more being equivalent to, say, a team of 35 policemen’s combined monthly salary or even one handbag’s value is similar to a large portion of their salary.

But don’t forget that the same raid on the first night at Najib’s house was said to have also involved the seizure of 10 luxury watches and cash in various currencies, including RM537,000.

As for the raid at a high-end condominium with two units allegedly linked to Najib, five police trucks had to be used to cart away 284 designer handbags — including Birkin bags under the Hermes brand — and 72 suitcases of cash, watches and jewellery.

Birkin bags reportedly start at US$12,000 (RM48,000) and can go beyond US$200,000 (RM800,000) each.

In a photograph taken by Malay Mail of the boxes of handbags seized, labels on two boxes stating “H-bag Fuschia Pink Croco Skin Hermes” and “Fushia Pink Croco Skin Hermes w/ Diamante” were spotted.

It is again unknown how much the handbags seized at the condominium costs, but it was previously reported that a fuchsia pink crocodile Hermes Birkin bag broke auction records then with a price of US$223,000 (RM887,103).

That is within the price range of what high-end condominiums in the Klang Valley might sell for currently.

For that eye-watering sum of RM887,103, it could cost a low-income (B40) household up to 24.64 years’ worth of their annual income, and cost a mid-income household in Malaysia up to 11.78 years of annual income, and a top-earning household up to 5.62 years of their annual income to pay off.

This would be based on the median monthly household income in 2016 for the respective groups — B40 (RM3,000), M40 (RM6,275), T20 (RM13,148) in the Department of Statistics Malaysia’s Report of Household Income and Basic Amenities Survey 2016.

But it is also assuming that the income is used solely to save up for such a bag and without any of it being used to pay tax or anything else such as household expenses, and also without factoring in inflation.

Reuters had reported that a prime minister’s monthly fixed salary is RM22,826.65 and that Najib earned another RM16,000 per month as he was also an MP.

That would come up to a total of RM38,826.65 per month or an annual income of RM465,919.80.

No valuables found in Najib’s eight safes

KUALA LUMPUR ― The eight safes found inside the prime minister’s official residence at Seri Perdana in Putrajaya have been opened by police investigating Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

A source told Sinar Harian the safes were opened by two locksmiths on Saturday, but no valuables or monies were found in any of the eight.

The operations lasted from Friday evening until 3am on Saturday, the source said, adding that police were also focusing their search in other locations in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Kajang, but did not elaborate on the owners of the premises to be searched.

On Friday, two locksmiths had opened the safe in Najib’s home in Jalan Duta and were tasked to open the eight safes in Putrajaya.

A taskforce investigating 1MDB, Najib’s brainchild, has searched at least six locations and several condominiums linked to the former prime minister.

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Najib undergoes health check

KUALA LUMPUR — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak posted a picture yesterday of him having a blood pressure test at his residence in Taman Duta here.

Najib, who is under investigation over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MD) corruption scandal, also said he expects more challenges ahead.

“Undergoing a routine check-up last night. Everything was normal. In this Ramadan month, we will surely be tested by all kinds of ordeals. May we always have Allah’s protection and providence,” he wrote
on Twitter.

Najib is believed to have left his residence here yesterday for Pekan, where he is scheduled to attend some Umno events.

Federal commercial crime investigators had last week repeatedly searched Najib’s home and at least five other locations linked to him in their bid to gather evidence of alleged money-laundering.

They have already seized over 300 designer handbags and bags of cash, jewellery and other valuables as part of the probe.

Malay Mail yesterday reported that Najib told police he feared for his life and requested to be placed under witness protection.

Najib led Barisan Nasional to its first and only defeat in a general election on May 9.

For young voters, electing 92-year-old was no easy call

KUALA LUMPUR — Like many young Malaysians, Daniel Mizan Qayyum yearned for change in a country that has been under one party’s corrosive thumb for six decades, so he naturally had misgivings about voting for a 92-year-old former autocrat.

But Malaysia’s rambunctious politics often creates unlikely allies, and Daniel is one of millions who catapulted the elderly Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to a shock victory in the May 9 elections over the corruption-plagued political machine that he once led.

They had no choice.

“We were revolted,” Daniel, a 27-year-old Universiti Malaya law student, said of Dr Mahathir’s late conversion into a reformist.

“This guy was the one who strong-armed all the draconian laws,” he said, referring to Dr Mahathir’s tough stance towards dissent in his 1981-2003 tenure.

But Daniel and other young voters held their noses and voted, convinced that anything was better than the long-ruling former regime.

The untested Pakatan Harapan now faces the challenge of delivering on rising expectations for a new era, even while conservative attitudes and vested interests remain strong in the country.

And above it all looms Dr Mahathir and his track record of crushing opponents. He now claims to be a changed man and says he plans to step aside within two years.

“For any new government it is very important to manage expectations. You must be seen to be starting the processes of reform and doing things like reducing cost burdens,” said Wong Chin Huat, a political analyst with the Penang Institute.

“I think enough can be done to keep young voters happy, but expecting wholesale changes in the next two years is unrealistic.”

Many young Malaysians are merely enjoying the honeymoon period following Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s fall.

His Barisan Nasional (BN) government had become increasingly corrupt and repressive, stifling expression and stoking racial divisions for political gain.

It dismayed a younger generation raised on free-wheeling social media and deeply concerned about job prospects and the country’s direction.

More than six million of Malaysia’s 14.9 million registered voters are between 21 and 39 years old.

Detailed figures on how they voted have not been released, but analysts believe the demographic was decisive in ousting BN.

For some, their demands are clear.

Daniel is one of many calling for Dr Mahathir’s government to quickly fulfil a pledge to replace a decades-old law restricting political activity on campuses which has stifled a generation of students.

“The real struggle is to make sure that any new law by the current government limits their own powers in universities,” he said.

Anis Syafiqah, who works for a leading civil-society group that has led past student protests demanding Najib’s arrest, also wants education revitalised and academic freedom ensured.

“Youths and students were afraid to speak out before,” said Anis, 26.

“We want to come back to academic freedom. It may take a long time.”

Others may also seek greater space or attention, from the LGBT community to Chinese and Indian minorities that have spent decades under Malay political domination, to economically disadvantaged groups.

Travel consultant Tan Jin Jie, 24, said he almost didn’t vote because of Dr Mahathir, and believes Malaysians should temper their expectations for now.

“How practical would it be, or how long would it take, for the new government to set Malaysia back onto the right path?” said Tan, who wants to see steps to ease living and housing costs.

“These are uncertainties but we hold onto hope that this will come to pass.

“It goes back to what we Malaysians actually want. To continue struggling under the incumbent regime or vote for hope.”

Much depends on whether Dr Mahathir will be able to work with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar was Dr Mahathir’s deputy prime minister until a spectacular falling out saw the premier oust and jail his protege in 1998.

Later, Anwar united the Opposition against BN, until Najib’s government jailed him in 2015.

But Dr Mahathir engineered Anwar’s release last week and has indicated he will eventually give way to him, a pledge that no doubt enticed many young voters to back Dr Mahathir in the polls.

But Anwar himself is now 70, and admitted after his release that he’ll need to learn how to use a smartphone.

So young Malaysians shouldn’t just sit and wait for change, said Fahmi Reza, a graphic artist and activist.

With his signature shoulder-length hair and black beret, Fahmi became a public hero with his viral images depicting Najib as a sinister clown, which earned him a criminal conviction for violating multimedia laws.

“Don’t wait for change. You be the change,” he said.

“Whatever change you want … do it now.” — AFP

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Police smash gang behind RM12m money scam

KUALA LUMPUR ― Police have crippled a gang running a currency exchange scam by shooting dead one suspect and arresting four others in Ampang on Saturday.

City police chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim said the “Gagak Hitam” gang had lured a 29-year-old victim by advertising their services that claimed to pay RM6.50 to each US dollar.

“The victim met brought along US$150,000 (RM595,000) in a briefcase and met with a Malaysian at The Intermark Mall in Jalan Tun Razak at about 11.45pm on Friday,” he said.

“Several minutes later, a Middle Eastern man and another Malaysian arrived in a black car and offering to bring the victim to another location where the exchange with a banker was to be made.”

Mazlan said the trio arrived at the second location where another vehicle with four African suspects were waiting, before they robbed the victim using a parang.

“The victim shouted for help and our officers on crime prevention rounds nearby rushed to the scene after they heard him,” he said.

Two of the suspects got into their car and sped away, and were pursued by the police for 12km from Jalan Damai Niaga in Cheras to Jalan Mamanda 2, Ampang Point, before they abandoned their vehicle to escape on foot.

“The suspects ran in different directions before one of our officers confronted one of them, who was armed with a parang, at a construction site,” Mazlan said.

“The officer had to fire four shots in self-defence after the suspect charged at him.”

Police detained the Middle Eastern suspect and an African national, but two other African nationals escaped with the briefcase containing the cash.

Mazlan said the two Malaysians who brokered the deal were also picked up a few hours later.

The suspects used YouTube and social media to promote their “services”, offering black market rates in exchange for foreign currency.

Unsuspecting victims would be lured by the higher rates and offered a “deal” by the middleman at a quiet place elsewhere before they would be robbed.

“We believe the gang had been active since 2016 with 40 cases reported, and estimated losses of at least RM12 million,” Mazlan said.

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Prices will take time to adjust post-GST, say groups

IPOH ― Some firms have started to reduce their prices before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is zero-rated, but business groups have told consumers not to expect all prices to drop immediately after June 1.

Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry Perak chairman Datuk Lim Si Boon said businesses need time to adjust and maintain the reporting system.

“Consumers may derive some benefits after June 1 but for businesses, there is still the compliance cost,” he said.

Lim said among the services that would see immediate effect are legal services and motoring.

“It will depend on the products. We cannot say across the board there will be an immediate reduction in price.”

He said with two weeks to go before the move is implemented, the authorities should engage urgently with businesses to allow them to understand the challenges.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Perak chairman Datuk Gan Tack Kong said from now to June 1, consumers may hold back on big purchasers that require them to pay GST.

“There will surely be market adjustments for at least two months (after June) or until the market has flushed out all GST claims,” he said.

“Companies would need to flush out previous expenditure.”

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Perak chairman Tony Khoo said the zero-rating of GST was a good move as the consumption tax has softened the commercial property market since its implementation in 2015.

“GST has prevented investors from buying commercial units,” he said, adding that to invest in a commercial unit, a purchaser must prepare at least 25 per cent of the price upfront.

“This is to cover the deposit, various taxes and legal fees before they can apply for loans. The market has slowed down and loan approval is stringent,” he said, expecting the zero-rated GST to be a boon for the commercial property sector.

The Finance Ministry announced last week that GST will be zero-rated for all items and services from June 1.

The previous Sales and Services Tax (SST) system will be reintroduced at a later time.

Perak MCA Public Services and Complaints Bureau chief Jimmy Loh said unless and until the federal government abolishes the GST Act, the tax will remain.

“The Pakatan Harapan government said in its manifesto the tax would be abolished but what is happening now is that it is only reduced,” he said.

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