The Tycoon Who Got Entangled in Najib’s 1MDB Scandal

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Property tycoon Lim Soon Peng has suddenly found himself the centre of attention in the country’s national politics after de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan yesterday claimed that the “Tan Sri” got political help with his frozen bank account linked to the 1MDB scandal.

How did the 64-year-old Titijaya Land founder who spent 37 years of his life in property development suddenly become entangled in the 1MDB scandal? By giving Najib Abdul Razak a helping hand when he was the prime minister.

According to MACC investigations, Najib made at least nine transfers to Lim between 2012 and 2015 from the same account he received the infamous RM2.6 billion, which prosecutors say is traceable to 1MDB.

The transactions, totalling RM31.103 million, are as follows:

Malaysiakini

Not every transaction’s purpose is known, but at least two of them were raised or elaborated upon in Najib’s RM2.28 billion 1MDB graft trial.

During the trial, in particular the transaction in 2015, we learnt that Lim acted as an intermediary to shield Najib from eyes prying into what the then prime minister was spending on.

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“We did not want cheques from the prime minister flying around,” Najib’s political secretary Wong Nai Chee had testified in April last year when asked why Lim had to be involved instead of direct payments.

The spending was essentially for propaganda works targeted at the Chinese community.

Najib had issued the RM238,914 cheque to Lim for payment to two entities, namely AD Network and Akademi Kewartawanan & Informasi Taima.

For ‘Brother Jib’

Wong had testified that AD Network was responsible for running the Chinese version of Najib’s Facebook page called “Ah Jib Gor”, meaning “Brother Jib”, which helped project a more affectionate image of Najib to the Chinese community.

Meanwhile, the payment to Akademi Kewartawanan & Informasi Taima, according to Wong, was for producing a Chinese weekly that provided “more objective” content about issues and policies.

Beyond this, there is little information in the public sphere about the purpose of the other transactions, but they could be similar to the one in 2015.

Wong had said that Lim was counted on to “mobilise the grassroots” in the Chinese community.

Lim may not have known about the source of Najib’s funds but when investigators and prosecutors finally came down on the Pekan MP after he lost the power of the prime minister’s office to keep them at bay, Lim found himself dragged into an international money laundering scandal.

When prosecutors slapped Najib with 25 charges of abuse of power and money laundering, one of the charges was for a RM246,000 payment to Lim on Aug 7, 2013. Details of this transaction have yet to be aired in court.

In October 2019, Lim was also among the 80 individuals and entities who were slapped with a compound for them to cough up the funds they had received from Najib.

The MACC did not disclose the exact sum it was seeking from Lim, but for the handful of individuals and entities that it did disclose, the amount matched what they got from Najib.

Then MACC chief Latheefa Koya had said no exemptions would be given but added that in cases where a recipient acted as an intermediary, the matter would be looked into.

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“There are those who came to us claiming they were not the final recipients but were intermediaries and we asked them to point or show us the recipients. Hence, we are tracing them and all this requires some time for the MACC to go through,” she had said.

Stuck with a frozen account

But paying up was not the only issue as the MACC had frozen most accounts that had received money from Najib and Lim was no exception.

Lim, through his lawyer, had in October 2018 written to then MACC chief Mohd Shukri Abdull appealing for his bank account to be unfrozen.

Lim, according to Takiyuddin, also allegedly had help from then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who wrote a note which was delivered to the MACC.

Takiyuddin had read out Mahathir’s note in the Dewan Rakyat: “I am in the opinion that the embezzlement conducted by the previous prime minister should not be blamed on Lim Soon Peng. Therefore, any freezing of personal or company accounts should not remain”.

Mohd Shukri, in a statement yesterday, said he did not heed the request to unfreeze Lim’s account.

Takiyuddin also claimed that then finance minister Lim Guan Eng had likewise forwarded Mahathir’s note to then attorney-general Tommy Thomas.

The freeze on Lim’s bank account was eventually lifted and Thomas informed the government of this on May 31, 2019.

However, the compound against Lim, issued in October the same year, remains. It is unclear if Lim has already paid the compound or is challenging it. – Malaysiakini