Saturday, May 21, 2022

Revisiting our top revelations that set the nation talking in 2021

Top of the list was news of Najib Razak's RM100 million house although others were not far behind.

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MalaysiaNow revealed some of the nation’s most explosive political news this year, with former prime minister Najib Razak and his one-time deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi continuing to dominate these stories.

At the top of the revelations was of course a plan we exposed on Nov 12 to “reward” Najib with a piece of property worth RM100 million in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most exclusive neighbourhoods.

The issue went viral, with social media users expressing shock that a man convicted of misappropriating millions of dollars was being gifted a house on a plot the size of two football fields.

It was not until former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement in the Dewan Rakyat a week later that politicians decided to join the online outrage.

Investigations coupled with help from well-placed sources later saw a series of other revelations related to the RM100 million gift expose, including the fact that the decision was opposed by some ministers.

It was further revealed that Najib had actually been given several options of properties courtesy of the government based on a law that allowed him privileges as a former prime minister, but that he chose the most expensive option which would mean the government building a new house for him using public funds.

Zahid, the Umno president, was not too far off when it came to being caught in the middle of political revelations.

This time, MalaysiaNow depended on an insider to spill the details of a meeting Zahid had in October 2020 with then prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

It was reported that Zahid had come to see Muhyiddin with his corruption trial files, hoping to get his support to have the criminal charges against him dropped.

Muhyiddin refused to intervene, saying he had no say in court matters. A few days after the meeting, Zahid and Najib wrote a letter to the palace backing PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, a letter which MalaysiaNow first revealed in October 2020.

The support showed how some Umno leaders in the so-called court cluster had been plotting against the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Muhyiddin, a government which the Malay party had backed in February 2020 following the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.

Such political scheming was to surface again, when on April 7, MalaysiaNow revealed an explosive telephone conversation between Zahid and Anwar, through which the two leaders were shown to have planned the outcome of the Umno general assembly days earlier. At that gathering, Zahid and Najib had called for Umno to cut ties with Bersatu, in what was seen as setting the tone for their eventual coup against Muhyiddin four months later.

Click here to listen to the conversation.

Zahid was to ride on the momentum of getting Umno delegates’ support to break ties with Bersatu, by going ahead with his campaign among Umno’s top leaders to completely cut ties with the PN government.

But a revelation by MalaysiaNow of what was said by Umno leaders in a four-hour Supreme Council meeting chaired by Zahid showed the Umno president taking pains to convince senior members of his plan to bring down Muhyiddin’s government.

Many questioned the proposal by Zahid and Najib to quit the Cabinet in order to trigger the collapse of the government during the pandemic. Such opposition would be reflected later when most ministers and deputy ministers from Umno, MCA and MIC refused to heed Zahid and Najib’s call for them to quit their posts.

The year 2021 also saw MalaysiaNow exposing how politicians of lesser stature behaved during their time in power.

In one such revelation, we showed how Amanah leader Khalid Samad, when he was the federal territories minister, had personally thrown his weight behind a private developer’s application to overturn a decision by the land office to revoke the transfer of a plot of land in Kuala Lumpur.

Following his response questioning our report, MalaysiaNow published images of the letters with Khalid’s handwritten note and initials.

This showed how top officials had violated their own rules, in this case, PH’s policy to ban any act that could be seen as flexing ministerial muscle, including the issuance of support letters or instructions that could be seen as influencing decisions.

Land matters were also the subject of another revelation, in which MalaysiaNow reported how Selangor had to part with hundreds of acres of state land and transfer them to property giant Berjaya Land, over the failure of a state-owned company to finance a mega project.

We also revealed audit findings that state-owned company Landasan Lumayan Sdn Bhd had not practised prudent spending despite its financial losses; on the contrary, its directors approved a four-month bonus, a 6% salary increase, and a jump in the managing director’s salary from RM29,000 to RM37,000.

Politicians were not the only stars in our investigative series – those linked to them also had prominent mentions in various reports.

They include Vinod Sekhar, a close friend of PKR’s Anwar, whose multi-billion contract from Hungary which we first reported ruffled feathers among those concerned with financial transparency.

Interviews with Hungarian politicians showed how the deal was considered part of a major scandal in Hungary.

Five months after we first reported his RM2.5 billion deal to supply medical equipment to the Hungarian government, multiple agencies raided the Bangsar offices linked to Vinod as part of an investigation into money laundering and tax evasion believed to be connected with the lucrative contract.

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