It has been branded the world’s biggest heist – between 2009 and 2014 at least US$4.5bn was allegedly stolen from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB.
At the centre of the scandal are the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and the now fugitive Malaysian financier and alleged mastermind of the scam, Jho Low. Ousted from power last year, Najib now faces almost 40 criminal charges and Jho Low is wanted in Malaysia, Singapore and the United States.
The heist allegedly began soon after a joint venture deal was signed between 1MDB and a little-known company called, PetroSaudi. Hundreds of millions were soon siphoned to a Swiss bank account controlled by Jho Low and then later, as alleged by the US Department of Justice, into Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts in Malaysia.
The world may never have known any of this, if it hadn’t been for a disgruntled PetroSaudi ex-employee, Xavier Justo. He leaked more than 200,000 confidential emails containing evidence of alleged criminal activity to a British journalist, Clare Rewcastle Brown.
At least half a dozen criminal investigations into the misappropriation of the billions of dollars from 1MDB are currently underway around the world and charges are being laid not only against the alleged conspirators, but executives from global financial institutions.
In this episode of Al Jazeera’s 101 East we investigate the deals and alleged criminal cover-ups that robbed Malaysia of billions of dollars, and track down the accidental hero who blew the whistle.