Home Bookend - Where reading meets review Scandals & Scoundrels: A Collection of Essays on 1MDB & related issues – R. Nadeswaran

Scandals & Scoundrels: A Collection of Essays on 1MDB & related issues – R. Nadeswaran

by Venky

(Image Credit: Visal Print Trading)

The now infamous 1MDB scandal that roiled Malaysia beginning 2015 and whose reverberations are felt even today represented a dizzying concoction of the impudence of a rogue individual, the intransigence at the highest levels of a rotten kleptocracy and the greedy ingenuity of a Wall Street behemoth. Swindler, Fixer, Wheeler-Dealer, Compulsive liar, and globe trotter, Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) first appeared as a simmering mist when rumours regarding a possible swindling of money from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, 1 Malaysia Berhad (“1MDB” for short) began doing the rounds. As tumultuous events subsequently demonstrated in horrific detail, this was no swindling of a routine run-of-the-mill nature associated with the functioning of a Government fund. 1MDB was representative of a total collapse of governance at multiple levels. It was a gargantuan vehicle of personal convenience whose wheels were greased by the lubricants of graft. 1MBD was a mother lode of all scams that ultimately resulted in the toppling (for the first time ever) of a kleptocratic leader and his coterie.

When the likes of Wall Street Journal were blowing open the lid on the gargantuan scam, one voice within Malaysia was unassumingly, unrelentingly and unsparingly holding a mirror against the conscience of the willful perpetrators. Veteran journalist and septuagenarian, R. Nadeswaran, writing under the now ubiquitous pen name Citizen Nades, prised open the entire labyrinth of the 1MDB fracas in a sustained series of articles penned over a course of four years. Scandals & Scoundrels represents a collection of pieces which Nadeswaran penned when the 1MDB issue was at its zenith. The people at the heart of the scandal had issued powerful diktats and issued stern edicts against making public any information even remotely connected with the financial scam. Employing draconian provisions contained within the Official Secrets Act, the ruling party ran riot. Acting in an impudent fashion, gag and detention orders were issued against the fourth estate in a fervent bid to hide a ‘whole pumpkin in a heap of rice’. When the dust settled and the head of the State was ultimately accused of corruption and sent to warm the prison benches, the total value of the scam was pegged at a whopping sum of $681 million or Ringgit Malaysia 2.6 billion!

Nadeswaran illustrates in chilling detail the despicable heights to which the perpetrators of the scam descended in an all-out attempt to absolve themselves of the heinous crime they had committed. From appointing cronies to judicial positions – akin to appointing foxes to guard chicken coops – to dislodging Attorney Generals and personnel from the Anti-Corruption Unit for having dared to commence an unbiased investigation into the money trial, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his lackeys moved heaven and earth to justify a sum of RM 2.6 billion that was mysteriously and miraculously deposited into the personal account of the Prime Minister maintained with Ambank. The funds before making their way into the designated account traversed a circuitous route originating from an entity named Tanore Finance incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, and winding through Seychelles and Singapore amongst other countries.

In what can only be termed incredulous, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (“PAC”) even ‘expurgated’ an important paragraph from the PAC report on 1MDB. The obliterated paragraph had a damning reference to a diversion of $1.03 million from a Joint Venture of 1MDB called Petro Saudi to an obscure entity called Good Star Ltd which was owned by the kingpin in the entire 1MDB scam, Jho Low.

Scandals & Scoundrels is an exercise in courage and conscientiousness. Nadeswaran, even under intense pressure and immense threats never shied away from being true to his profession. Asking, probing, goading and poking with a tempo that can only be described as pounding, he hounded the politicians and their blind acolytes by daring them to respond to facts that were uncomfortable if not downright, disturbing. The book is also peppered with satirical chapters that cover some of the most shameful of cover ups without making references to the key players. However the sardonic titles given to the characters in these Chapters leave no one in doubt as to the actual identity behind the ‘fictional’ characters. For example the titular character going by the acronym of “M01” is the former convicted Prime Minister himself. In one incriminating document he was referred to as “M01”.

Scandals & Scoundrels is also a primer for all young minds aspiring to make a mark in the field of journalism. Bob Woodward, that quintessential barometer of all impartial reporting once remarked, “I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us.” R. Nadeswaran pays absolute and unabashed paean to this principle espoused by Bob Woodward. There is neither pyrotechnics nor sensationalism in his book. Its just facts as they are supposed to be stated and as they exactly unraveled.

Investigative reporting at its blistering best!

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