The details have started to leak in advance of the trial of the US entertainer Pras Michael who, unlike his alleged co-conspirators, has resisted making a plea deal over his purported role in laundering 1MDB stolen cash.
Already, the prosecution papers have revealed more detail on the squandering of Malaysia’s money and doubtless further still will come to light in court and when the former rap star puts forward his defence.
Meanwhile, after several months of unexplained delays, a spate of sentences are at last being issued against those who have been convicted or pleaded guilty to the US authorities.
Yet, so far, it is the smaller fish who are being fried – only in Malaysia has the top man been jailed.
In the States there have been two main areas of prosecution: first, against Jho Low and the bankers who were involved in assisting Najib’s theft from 1MDB; second, against a team of PR agents and officials brought in to lobby US officials at the highest level to cover up the crime on Najib’s behalf and to help ingratiate the Malaysian prime minister with both President Obama (roped in for a game of golf) and then President Trump whom Najib met in the White House.
In January the most insignificant of these lobbyists became the first to go to jail. A Hawaiian woman, Nicky Lum Davis who has admitted to passing messages and assisting Jho Low without registering she was working as a foreign agent and was being paid $3 million to assist Najib and also Jho Low’s other client, the People’s Republic of China:
Nickie Mali Lum Davis, 47, of Honolulu, Hawaii, admitted that between March 2017 and January 2018, she and her co-conspirators – Elliott Broidy, George Higginbotham, and Prakazrel “Pras” Michel – agreed to lobby the then-President of the United States, the Attorney General, and other high-level U.S. government officials to drop civil forfeiture proceedings and a criminal investigation into the embezzlement of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a strategic investment and development company wholly owned by the Government of Malaysia.
For their efforts, Lum Davis and her co-conspirators were paid millions of dollars by Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low, an alleged architect of the 1MDB scheme. Lum Davis and others also agreed to lobby the Administration and Justice Department on behalf of Low and a minister of the People’s Republic of China (PRC Minister A), to arrange for the removal and return of a dissident of the PRC living in the United States. Lum Davis and her co-conspirators concealed from the officials whom they lobbied that they were working on behalf of Low and PRC Minister A, and were being paid millions of dollars by Low with the expectation of tens of millions more in success fees. The lobbying campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful.
Among other actions, Lum Davis and her co-conspirators tried to arrange meetings for PRC Minister A with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and other high-level officials during PRC Minister A’s visit to the United States in May 2017; provided talking points to the Secretary of State referencing the 1MDB investigation in advance of a meeting between the Secretary of State and the Malaysian Prime Minister in August 2017; and pushed the White House Chief of Staff for a meeting and golf game between the former President and the Malaysian Prime Minister to allow the Malaysian Prime Minister to raise resolution of the 1MDB investigation. Lum Davis was paid at least $3 million for her role in the scheme, which she agreed to forfeit as part of her plea agreement. Broidy was paid at least $9 million.
Broidy previously pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme on Oct. 20, 2020, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Broidy received a full presidential pardon on Jan. 19, 2021.
Higginbotham previously pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme on Nov. 30, 2018, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Michel was charged by superseding indictment for his role in the scheme on June 10, 2021. His trial is set to begin on March 27 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. [US DOJ Press Release]
Lum Davis had little status in the affair. As her lawyers pointed out she only relayed messages back and forth. “I never had the government connections,” Davis told the judge, calling herself the “middle person.” (Politico). Yet, she received a daunting 2 year jail sentence in January for her role.
Another official who pleaded guilty was George Higgenbotham, a lawyer for the DOJ, who pleaded guilty back in 2018 for taking money from Pras Michael to open bank accounts for Jho Low’s lobbying efforts. The judge at the time suggested he could expect a sentence of 16 months, but it is yet to be handed down.
However, the main player in this affair, who was offered vast sums for his contacts and ability to wage influence was the Chair of the National Republican Committee of the time, Elliot Broidy. Broidy’s company was hired by Najib to conduct alleged ‘security’ work whilst his wife’s legal firm was also offered a $75 million success fee to close down the 1MDB investigation.
Broidy too pleaded guilty. However, disgracefully, former President Donald Trump pardoned the crook as he was leaving office, meaning that whilst the minions have gone to jail the man in charge has walked scot free.
Naturally, back in Malaysia Najib is hopeful that similar privilege will attach to him and sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Jho is on the run and Pras Michael clearly reckons his own celebrity will help do the trick.
Again, next week looks set to see jail sentences and multi-million dollar fines extracted (ultimately thanks to Sarawak Report who first reported on their crimes as early as July 2013) from the two medium level Goldman Sachs bankers who orchestrated 1MDB’s $6.5 billion bond theft.
Tim Leissner pleaded guilty and acted as a prosecution witness against his former colleague Roger Ng convicted a year ago. Both men have been on bail ever since, nonetheless it appears neither have been engaged in giving evidence against a swathe of seniors at the bank who could not have failed to have been aware of the criminal nature of the deal from which Goldman achieved over £600 million in ludicrously inflated fees.
So far, this law breaking institution has received little more than a slap on the wrist with a Deferred Prosecution Agreement and a series of fines for its criminal behaviour, leaving the world to wonder if it is even more the case that there are ‘untouchables’ in the United States as in Malaysia.