THE THIRD FORCE
(Republished, first publication in December 2016)
On the 11th of January 2010, former premier Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak made public a multi-billion dollar joint venture initiative between 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, and China’s leading power grid operator, State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC). The news did not go down well with Andrew Brown, the brother of former British premier Gordon Brown, who decided to try and dissuade the Chinese against persisting with their energy ambitions in Malaysia.
I am told, Andrew came up with the idea of dedicating a news portal to running the gamut of conspiracy against the then Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud. He tasked his wife, Clare Rewcastle Brown, to come up with editorials that would expose alleged acts of criminal and moral impropriety on the part of the former Chief Minister in relation to Cahaya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMS), a flagship of the Taib Business Empire.
One thing led to another before team Rewcastle (comprising Andrew, Ms. Rewcastle and a few of Andrew’s associates) got down to registering the sarawakreport.org with Cloudfire, a web hosting and internet security firm based in the United States (US). The domain name was soon identified with Sarawak Report, a fake news portal that kicked off with an editorial accusing CMS of receiving numerous government contracts, engaging in shoddy business deals and benefiting illegally from taxpayer money.
In the editorial, published on the 16th of February 2010, Ms. Rewcastle alleged that Taib’s family members had received “tens of millions of US dollars in illegal kickbacks by Japanese shipping companies exporting timber from Sarawak.” This, according to Sarawak Report, came atop the millions of ringgit that CMS siphoned by sub-contracting “huge government projects to other companies for far less money. “
The attacks never stopped. In April 2011, Sarawak Report trained its guns at China Sinohydro Corporation by accusing the Chinese state-owned company of using faulty methods when constructing the Bakun hydroelectric facility in Sarawak. A year later, on the 16th of February 2012, Ms. Rewcastle pointed to a convoluted cross-holding scheme that turned CMS into the absolute owner of SALCO, a company licensed to build a vast aluminium smelter that was to be powered by cheap electricity from the Bakun hydroelectric facility.
All the accusations, all the reports – Ms. Rewcastle gave the impression that her worry was with the element of corruption that was central to the Taib Business Empire and deals negotiated between Taib’s family members and the government of Malaysia. But that was far from the truth.
A Global Intelligence report I sighted revealed that both Ms. Rewcastle and her husband, Andrew, were particularly concerned with commitment that was shown by SGCC to the (then) newly established Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), an East Malaysian development region launched by former Malaysian premier Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi in February 2008. On the 14th of December 2009, SGCC announced a plan to throw some USD 8 billion into joint venture projects with 1MDB that included plans to set up an aluminium smelting plant and three hydro-electric dams in Sarawak.
Most, if not all the projects were slated for launch within Sarawak’s development corridor through joint venture initiatives spearheaded by 1MDB. Andrew knew that CMS would somehow burrow its way into most of those projects, as Taib’s family members were known to have built a nexus of associations with companies within the development region. Both Andrew and Ms. Rewcastle saw this to be a major problem.
According to the intelligence report, Andrew harboured hopes of becoming the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) chief energy lobbyist to China. Most of the deals the Chinese were negotiating with the Malaysian government and 1MDB were deals Andrew intended to lobby the Chinese for. Realising that the Taib Empire and 1MDB jointly possessed the financial clout to secure a Chinese energy commitment towards SCORE, Andrew saw his dreams gradually fade away.
Clare decided that Taib would be the point of attack. She quickly got to work building conspiracy theories around Taib and CMS, hoping to drive SGCC away from Sarawak by painting a grim outlook of the political and administrative culture in Malaysia. But towards the mid of 2014, plans began to change.
A little known fallout between billionaire magnate George Soros and a couple of oil tycoons sponsored by the Rothschilds somehow brought individuals linked to Blair’s camp to Ms. Rewcastle’s ‘doorstep’. These individuals were hell bent on severing 1MDB’s ties with PetroSaudi International, a well-connected oil services company founded by a guy named Tarek Obaid together with his partner, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Unbeknown to the Malaysian government, PetroSaudi had in November 2010 signed Blair up to assist the company broker deals with well-connected officials in China the former British premier was said to be close to. As a reward, Blair was promised a 2 percent commission for each deal he brokered, which came atop the 41,000 pound monthly fee he charged PetroSaudi for his services.
Bllair had hoped to ride on his appointment with PetroSaudi by negotiating strategic partnerships between PetroSaudi and the Chinese government through an umbrella organization of his, the Tony Blair Associates (TBA). But every time he thought of a potentially lucrative deal, he discovered that 1MDB had been there and had done that. And that was just the second of his problems.
The first had to do with Mubadala Development Company PJSC, an investment vehicle wholly owned by the government of Abu Dhabi. On the 8th of October 2010, barely a month prior to Blair’s appointment by PetroSaudi, Mubadala signed two collaborative agreements worth USD7 billion with 1MDB that had the potential of spurring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Malaysia. At the time of signing, nobody within the Malaysian government was made aware of Blair’s appointment as Mubadala’s principal advisor the year before, despite the appointment being made by the very person who approved the collaboration agreements with 1MDB.
That person was none other than Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the head of the state’s wealth fund. Both Zayed and his brother, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, shared very close rapports with Blair and had hoped the former British premier would trench them a path through Chinese bureaucracy and into the inner circles of well connected Chinese officials. But as with the case of PetroSaudi, 1MDB seemed to come between Blair and deals he planned to negotiate on behalf of Mubadala with the Chinese.
Through Blair’s association with the two Sheikhs and former officials from JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs (who I will talk about in an upcoming article), Blair and his team were able to gain access to inside information that pertained to 1MDB and all its dealings with various quarters in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. By March 2014, the former British premier had drawn the line – he wanted 1MDB out of the picture once and for all.
If what I am told is true, Blair’s people established contact with Ms. Rewcastle some time in May 2014 to offer her a glimpse of that information. They promised to book Andrew a seat on the Blair express and have him connected with just the right Chinese officials to further his energy ambitions. In return, all Ms. Rewcastle needed to do was to find ways to sabotage 1MDB, including meeting up with former Malaysian premier Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, who intelligence agents in the UK knew was about to strike Najib.
As the story goes, Ms. Rewcastle was made to understand that for the mission to work, she needed access to confidential information from Bank Negara (BNM) and the Securities Commission to facilitate the fabrication of stories around 1MDB, its joint-venture company with PetroSaudi and all its attendant concerns, including those that related to Mubadala. Not long after, she arranged to meet a Mahathir associate in London and disclosed the existence of confidential information that had the potential of destroying Najib if exposed.
Mahathir liked what he heard. The only thing he had on his mind was to force a resignation from Najib. Likewise, the only thing Ms. Rewcastle had on her mind was to prevent the Chinese from furthering their energy ambitions with the government of Malaysia. As for Blair, the only thing he had on his mind was to sever ties that 1MDB had with PetroSaudi, the Abu Dhabi based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and Mubadala.
Early in July 2014, Mahathir’s associate got back to Ms. Rewcastle and affirmed the former premier’s commitment to a working relationship with her. However, Mahathir had one condition – Sarawak Report was to dim the spotlight on Taib and concentrate mainly on 1MDB. Ms. Rewcastle promised to limit her coverage on Taib and the latter’s Business Empire. Within days, team Mahathir and team Rewcastle committed to a scheme that would see Ms. Rewcastle spearhead an international media campaign against 1MDB and anything that had Najib or his family written to it.
That basically summarizes how Sarawak Report got roped into an elaborate conspiracy by Dr. Mahathir Mohammad and his right-hand man, Matthias Chang, to trigger a world media campaign against Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak.
To be continued…