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Monday, August 8, 2011

Of Al Capone and Rosmah's USD24.4 mil scandal

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:17 PM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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UMNO media has begun to spin the idea that an innocent Rosmah Mansor was merely being used by Jacob & Co, a New York-based Jewish firm, for money laundering activities. Certainly, UMNO's apparatus has shifted into top gear to clean up the fallout created by a leak from the Malaysian Customs department that the Prime Minister's wife had either imported or was involved in some way with a humongous blue diamong ring.
With so many rumours buzzing around and Najib Razak's job in a precarious position as the country heads for a snap general election soon, it is no wonder that the prime minister has marshalled all resources into undoing what many perceive to be his and Rosmah's own doing.
Among the hottest whispers in town are that the ring is part of Rosmah’s daughter’s dowry and is a special gift to Rosmah. Although the 22-year old and very beautiful Nooryana Najib has not officially tied the know yet, her wealthy fiance Daniyar Nazabayev may have got some inkling of his future mum-in-law and this may be why he is keen to keep happy with the ring. So the talk in the tabloids and coffee shops go.
No doubt, whispers have often shadowed the truth but until real evidence is brought forward, such talk are mere whispers. To a large extent, the authorities have themselves to blame for the wildfire manner in which the 'ring' goosip has overtaken the nation.

Deafening silence from MACC, Customs and Inland Revenue
Firstly, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has gone all quiet despite a report being filed nearly a month ago. The Customs department too has not made a squeak. What better way to prove the accusations wrong than for the MACC to conduct an investigation into the ring. Justice must be seen to be done and it must be seen that the first couple was not spared or shielded, and instead treated like everyone else, which is - to be subjected to the law of the land. Instead, all Malaysians have is a limp dismissal, not tantamount to an outright denial, by Rosmah that she had bought the ring.
However, Najib's minders may have no choice. If probes were allowed, there's no saying that investigations won't show that Rosmah was indeed guilty and had lied through her teeth.
Now, if Rosmah was indeed an innocent by-stander, blissfully unaware of the money laundering activities Jacob & Co was alleged to be performing behind her back, why doesn't she clarify immediately. Tell Malaysians if it was true the ring was in the country for a private sale viewing, and she was only asked to inspect it? Certain VVIPs are believed to have been at the viewing. Wouldn’t it be very beneficial for Rosmah, if these VVIPs came forward to state the truth?
But sad to say, all the First Lady had decided to say on the matter was, “There is nothing I want to say because I have no time to address such things. Let (the blogger) say what he wants. This is slander but what have I not experienced? I have experienced it all. So, rather than address this, it is better I pay attention to public issues as these are more important,” Berita Harian quoted her as saying in response to questions on whether the ring was bought by her or for her.
If it is indeed slander, then Rosmah as a citizen, has every right to file a report with the police, to have the allegations investigated. Instead, the police are conveniently left out of the loop, which merely adds to the speculation that the ring did indeed come into Malaysia and somehow fell into Rosmah's hand for some reason or another.
Money laundering
As for the UMNO media spin of money-laundering activities by Jacob & Co, this must be probed without delay.
Under Malaysia's Anti-Money Laundering Act 2011 (AMLA), money laundering is deemed, inter alia, as ‘an act of a person who engages directly or indirectly in a transaction that involves proceeds of an unlawful activity.’
As defined under section 3 of the AMLA, it is any act which ‘acquires, receives, possesses, disguises, transfers, converts, exchanges or removes from or brings into Malaysia proceeds of any unlawful activity.’
The bottom line is that for a transaction to be deemed money laundering, the money or asset concerned must, first of all, be the subject matter of an unlawful act.
What illegal activities were Jacob & Co involved in to have the proceeds from the sale of the ring considered money-laundering? Was the viewing session held for the ring in Malaysia illegal? And if so, why was it illegal? Was it because the tax-duties on the ring were not declared, as seen in alleged screenshots of the Customs Department's database. Was it meant to be sold without tax being paid to people who merely were looking for a discount on a USD24.4 million ring?
Mafia-in-laws and the Al Capone tax-dodge
Top Indonesian newspaper, Kosmos, provided further reading fodder by suggesting that Rosmah’s future in-laws had links to the Russian mafia. According to it, the ring was a gift for Rosmah thanks to Daniyar's mum Maira Nazarbayev, a character said to mirror Imelda Marcos. Rosmah is indeed in good company with Maira and Imelda.
Could it be that the ring was truly a gift and sent to Rosmah? But the tax-duties were waived because it was a gift for Rosmah? If so, then Rosmah is guilty of not paying taxes on a luxury item valued at USD24.4 million.
If so, it then becomes clear the denial and veil over the whole matter is in fact another of the first couple's infamous Public Relations scams to save Rosmah from being identified as having ultra-luxurious tastes while the nation spirals into economic limbo courtesy of her husband’s lackadaisical government?
If one were to play Hercule Poirot, then the seemingly disjointed nature of information and news concerning this scandal points to one obvious - that the ring is in Rosmah’s keeping, and it can be inferred as such until she denies other-wise. In which case, the Inland Revenues should pay Rosmah a visit and claim what is due to the nation's treasury.
As far as tax-evasion is concerned, it was because he did not pay his taxes that Chicago gangster boss Al-Capone was imprisoned. And it could mean the same for Rosmah, if she evaded paying tax on a USD24.4 million ring.
Remember, a good taxman never spares anyone!

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