Is Nazir CIMB exit linked to 1MDB probe on Najib?

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 – CIMB group chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak has finally confirmed what was reported three months ago on his departure from the banking group.

In an Instagram post today, Nazir, 52, said that the board would go ahead with the succession plan for the next chaiman. Nazir Razak

On June 30, it was rumoured that Nazir has informed the CIMB board of directors that he will not be seeking a re-election as the chairman of the banking group and will leave when his term finishes next March.

However, he has instead decided now to leave by the end of this year and will leave it to the board to decide on the exact date of handover.

“The sun is setting on my time in CIMB. Over the last 29 years, I have had the privilege of a front-row seat on the amazing CIMB journey from fledgling corporate finance franchise to leading Malaysian investment bank to an Asean universal bank,” he said, adding “Thank you CIMB.”

Received US$7 million from Najib

Nazir had in the first few years of the post-13th general election (GE13) era been a firm critic of the government, and had through several Instagram posts, drawn much praise from many opposition supporters despite being Najib’s sibling.

However, a report by the Wall Street Journal on March 31, 2016, that nearly US$7 million was paid into his private account through a cheque from his brother Najib ahead of the 2013 general election, changed all that and saw him come under scrutiny as well.

Money given to Umno politicians

The WSJ had said that the money transferred into his account had been disbursed to Umno politicians ahead of GE13. He was also reported to have told the international financial publication that he believed the money was from donations he helped to raise from Malaysian companies and individuals for the election.

An internal inquiry was carried out by CIMB, and he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the way he handled the US$7 million that passed through his account.

Investigation into payments from Najib’s account

Interestingly, though the US$7 million is believed to be part of the nearly US$700 million transferred into Najib’s account in early 2013 – which was said to have been from the 1MDB state sovereign fund – there has been no call to investigate Nazir under the same Anti-Money Laundering Act under which prominent Umno lawyer Mohamad Shafee Abdullah had been charged earlier this month, for having received RM9.5 million from Najib between September 2013 and February 2014.

The Edge reported two months ago that anyone who had received money from Najib’s bank accounts would be called in by investigators and it is likely their bank accounts will be frozen. It is not known if Nazir’s account in CIMB was frozen or if he too was called up for questioning.

Quoting sources, the financial daily said that although the recipients may not have been aware that the funds were illegally diverted from 1MDB, investigators will demand that they be returned. If the recipients have spent the money, they will still be asked to return it.

Apart from political parties, close to 70 individuals, 60 business entities and 10 foundations received a total of RM500 million from one bank account of Najib between 2011 and 2014, according to sources.

So, questions remain over Nazir’s impending departure and the reasons behind it, so soon after the fall of the BN government, the investigations into the 1MDB scandal as well as the charges made against his brother Najib last week.

CIMB mission accomplished

Nazir, who is the youngest brother of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has served CIMB for 29 years, including as Group chief executive officer (CEO) for 15 years and as Group chairman since 2014.

He added that his CIMB mission has been accomplished.

“Final affirmation of success will come with my departure and the group will grow from strength to strength.

“I am 52 years young. It is time for me to commit fully to my next mission on the Asean stage.”

Last year, Bloomberg reported that he would be involved in new regional private equity fund that would seek as much as US$1 billion.

The fund to be based in Singapore, reportedly had plans to target investments in the consumer, technology, logistics and financial services industries in Southeast Asia.

Nizam Razak quits Petra Energy

Meanwhile, another brother of Najib, Datuk Nizam has resigned from the board of Petra Energy.

The company, in a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, said Nizam is leaving to pursue other business ventures. He owns 29.25 million shares in Petra Energy. There was no word on whether he will relinquish his stake in the company.

Petra Energy is an integrated brown field services provider for the upstream oil and gas industry.