Malaysia detains Najib ex-aide in first arrest over 1MDB scandal

Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak is the subject of a money laundering probe, but has consistently denied wrongdoing. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Malaysia detains Najib ex-aide in first arrest over 1MDB scandal

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities have made the first arrest in a renewed probe into the multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB, remanding a former aide of ousted prime minister Najib Razak to assist in investigations, Bernama news reported on Monday.
Malaysia’s new government led by the 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations into billions of dollars allegedly siphoned out of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) after Najib’s administration lost a general election in May, fueled by anger over the scandal and rising living costs.
On Monday, a magistrate’s court granted an application by anti-graft officials to remand Najib’s former aide for a week to assist in their investigations into 1MDB, according to a report by national newswire Bernama.
The 42-year-old aide, described in the report as having worked for Najib since 2009, was arrested on Sunday night after giving a statement at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) headquarters in the administrative capital of Putrajaya.
Earlier this month, Malaysia’s new attorney general said his office was studying possible criminal and civil action in the 1MDB case, after receiving investigation papers on the state fund from the anti-graft agency.
Former prime minister Najib, who founded 1MDB, is the subject of a money laundering probe. Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing.
Najib, in some of his most extensive comments yet on the 1MDB scandal, told Reuters last week that he did not know if hundreds of millions of dollars that moved through his personal account was from 1MDB, and if money from the fund was eventually laundered to acquire assets globally, including yachts, paintings, gems and prime real estate.
Transactions involving 1MDB are being investigated in half a dozen countries, including the United States, where it has become the biggest case pursued by the Department of Justice under its anti-kleptocracy program.
The US Department of Justice has alleged in lawsuits that more than $4.5 billion from 1MDB was laundered through a complex web of transactions and shell companies, of which $681 million ended in Najib’s bank account. Najib says the money in his account was donations from Saudi Arabia, most of which he returned.
According to the US justice department, assets purchased using 1MDB money include a Picasso painting, luxury real estate in South California and New York, shares in a Hollywood production company and a $265 million yacht, and more than $200 million worth of jewelry — including a 22-carat pink diamond pendant and necklace.


US returns ‘Bells of Balangiga’ to Philippines a century after clash

Updated 6 min 13 sec ago
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US returns ‘Bells of Balangiga’ to Philippines a century after clash

  • The decision to return the ‘Bells of Balangiga’ to the Philippines ends a decades-long quest by Manila
  • All three bells will be restored and handed over to the Philippines as early as December
F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyoming: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday formally returned church bells to the Philippines that were taken as war trophies over a century ago following gruesome clashes, seeking to close a contentious chapter in the two allies’ shared history.
The decision to return the “Bells of Balangiga” to the Philippines ends a decades-long quest by Manila, including by President Rodrigo Duterte, and is expected to bolster US-Philippines’ relations.
But it has upset some US veterans and Wyoming’s delegation to the US Congress, which uniformly opposed returning bells that were a memorial to the 45 US soldiers who were killed during a surprise attack on Sept. 28, 1901, in the central town of Balangiga.
Two of the three bells have been on display at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. The third bell is at a US Army museum in South Korea.
Mattis, speaking at a ceremony at the air force base attended by the Philippines ambassador to the United States, said the Philippines has proven itself as a great US ally in conflicts over the century since that clash. He said the sacrifices of US forces would not be forgotten.
“To those who fear we lose something by returning these bells, please hear me when I say: Bells mark time, but courage is timeless,” Mattis said. “It does not fade in history’s dimly lit corridors.”
In Manila, the Philippines’ foreign affairs department cheered the move.
“Today is a time of solemn remembrance as we pay tribute to all those who gave up their lives during the Filipino-American War,” it said.
Wyoming’s Congressional delegation, which did not attend the ceremony, issued a terse statement.
“We continue to oppose any efforts by the Administration to move the Bells to the Philippines without the support of Wyoming’s veterans community,” Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Representative Liz Cheney said in a joint statement.
All three bells will be restored and handed over to the Philippines as early as December, said Joe Felter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia.
The 1901 attack in Balangiga, on the Filipino island of Samar, was seen as perhaps the worst routing of US soldiers since the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, also known as Custer’s Last Stand.
According to historians, one or more of the church bells were rung to signal the attack in Balangiga.
US forces took the bells after a brutal counterattack that killed anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people in the Philippines, historians say. One US general was said to have directed his troops to “make the interior of Samar a howling wilderness.”
Some Wyoming veterans, like Cheryl Shannon at Veterans of Foreign Wars, said they were fine with the decision to return the bells.
“We’re tired of it always being an issue,” said Shannon, an Iraq war veteran.
But Hank Miller, a veteran with the VFW who wanted to keep the bells in Wyoming, said broader support for his position had faded as it became clear Washington would return the bells.
“I was advised to ‘stop fighting a losing battle’ and ‘stop beating a dead horse’ as the bells were going back,” Miller said.