Elias Hj Idris
The announcement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that it was taking action to seek ‘the forfeiture and recovery of more than USD1 billion in assets’ related to 1MDB will likely start the process for the eventual removal of Jibby as Malaysia’s sixth prime minister.

According to the DOJ, more than USD3.5 billion in 1MDB funds was transferred from one financial institution to another around the world from 2009 to 2015, to hide the origins of the fund and its ultimate beneficiaries. Two of those named by the DOJ were directly connected to Jibby.

The first is Riza Aziz, Jibby's stepson. Riza is infamous in Malaysia for being one of the producers of The Wolf of Wall Street. The DOJ filed forfeiture claims for the royalties from the film, suggesting that it was funded by 1MDB money.

The second is Jho Low, infamous for partying with Paris Hilton. Jho Low admitted to being an ‘advisor’ to the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) before it was taken over and renamed 1MDB. Jho Low was the mastermind behind the complex deals between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi financiers which lead to an even more complex system of payments around the world, so complex that financial authorities in Singapore, Switzerland and Luxembourg are still in the process of following the money trial.

While DOJ is the first to accuse 1MDB of money laundering, Singapore was the first country to take action when the Monetary Authority of Singapore ordered the closure of BSI Singapore, part of a Swiss private bank in May 2016. The Singapore BSI branch was a key conduit for 1MDB.

What the DOJ is now hoping for is for one of the main actors to turn into a prosecution witness. There is a strong likelihood that one of the bank employees or even a former employee of Goldman Sachs, who arranged the 1MDB bonds, will do so in return for staying out of jail. Even Jho Low may talk, given the right incentives.

BUT IT IS CERTAIN THAT JIBBY WILL HAVE TO GO. The question is not if, but when. Politically it will be impossible for him to shoulder on, unless Umno is happy to support a leader who has become a pariah in Western capitals.

The detailed paper trail provided by the DOJ will show how 1MDB money ended up in the hands of Riza Aziz and Jho Low, and disprove Jibby's claims that the money was a ‘donation’ from a Saudi royal. In essence, the DOJ documents will effectively destroy whatever is left of Jibby's credibility.
Umno cannot afford to keep Jibby since the next general election is due in 2018, less than two years away. Planning for elections for Umno usually takes up to 12 months.

There appears two viable options for Jibby. First, he goes for a snap election to take advantage of the Opposition's perceived lack of unity, with the de facto leader of Malaysia’s opposition Anwar Ibrahim remaining a political prisoner.

Even if Jibby wins a snap election, he would still have to give up the prime ministership, but he can largely name his retirement terms and set the timetable for his departure.

The second option is for Najib to negotiate his departure now with the Umno senior leadership. This is something that has been done, the most recent in 2008 when Pak Lah negotiated a retirement package in return for making way for Jibby. Even then, negotiations took more than six months and the original timetable for Pak Lah's retirement was delayed to early 2009.

No matter which option Najib pursues, there is little doubt that he is a political dead man walking.
[adapted from an article by Professor James Chin, Director of the Asia Institute, University of Tasmania.]
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