Asia

1MDB scandal: 'Will the real Malaysian Official 1 please stand up?'

A cartoon depiction, with the words "Malaysian official 1" featured Image copyright Twitter/@AtTheEdgeMsia
Image caption "Malaysian official 1" was referenced 32 times, described as a "high-ranking official in the Malaysian government"

After years of speculation and allegations of corruption, Malaysians woke up to a major development in the 1MDB scandal.

The US Department of Justice said it would seize more than $1bn (£761m) in assets allegedly bought with funds diverted from the state fund and alleged that "Malaysian official 1" received hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB.

The individual, who was not named but was referenced 32 times, was described as a "high-ranking official in the Malaysian government".

Many Malaysians believe that the reference is to Prime Minister Najib Razak and the term started being used as a replacement for his name on social media. Mr Najib has always denied all wrongdoing.

'Will the real Malaysian Official 1 please stand up?'

#MalaysianOfficial1 quickly became the most trending topic on the Twitter in Malaysia on Thursday with thousands chiming in.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Malaysian users quickly took to the #MalaysianOfficial1 hashtag, making it the most trended topic on Twitter
Image copyright Twitter/@iznyhaseri
Image caption "The Malaysian Official 1 right now", says this tweet
Image copyright Twitter
Image caption This meme makes light of football manager Jose Mourinho referring to himself as the "special one", paralleling this to Najib being referred to as the "official one"

Want some curry?

Elsewhere, #1MDB, #Najib, Wolf of Wall Street and Jho Low, which were all linked to 1MDB, were all trending on Twitter.

Image copyright Twitter/@saharil
Image caption "Brother do you not want to eat your curry?", asks the woman, to which the man replies "No, I don't want it. It's spicy."

In this cartoon, a woman is seen asking a man, drawn in the likeness of Mr Najib if he wants to eat curry, with him replying that he doesn't want it as it's too spicy.

In Malay, curry is commonly spelt as Kari, which also happen to be the acronyms for the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative (KARI), the name of a US unit established to curb high-level public corruption around the world.

The 1MDB scandal has been described by the US government as the largest single action ever brought under KARI.

Other users made light of the scandal in other ways.

Image copyright Twitter/@ByJasonNg
Image caption The 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was first set up in 2009 and was meant to turn Kuala Lumpur into a financial hub and boost the economy through strategic investments
Image copyright Twitter/@afifuze

The Hollywood film Wolf of Wall Street was produced by a production firm co-founded by Mr Najib's stepson Riza Aziz, who has been named in the court papers

While others implied there was another film going on closer to home that was much more interesting.

Image copyright Twitter/@wnazira10
Image caption Malaysians made light of the scandal, which has attracted negative attention since 2015
Image copyright Twitter/@1Obefiend
Image caption This parody account "Malaysian Official 1", quickly sprang up on Twitter

References to pop culture lyrics were also involved.

Image copyright Twitter/@ahmxdadxm
Image caption The lyrics are a reference to Meghan Trainor's song "No"

Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known more commonly as Zunar, used a cartoon to make his thoughts known on the issue.

The cartoonist was last year charged with nine counts of sedition and faces up to 43 years in prison. He says his cartoons are directed towards "fighting the tyranny and corruption of the Malaysian government".

The cartoon shows a "domino effect" of the 1MDB scandal, according to Zunar.

"The two cartoon characters below show [a] police chief and the public accounts committee chief," Zunar told the BBC. "They are supposed to take action, but instead they choose to be a bunch of lackeys. When things get worse, they run."

Image copyright Twitter/@zunarkartunis
Image caption Riza, Jho Low, Mr Najib and Rosmah are some of the names widely associated with the 1MDB scandal

"Even though the [Department of Justice] action only affects Riza and Jho Low, in my opinion, the domino effect will come to Najib and Rosmah [Mr Najib's wife], either legally or politically," he added.

Media silence

The 1MDB incident did not feature in the country's newspapers on Thursday, with The Star online, a local newspaper with a large online presence, running a story about organised crime as their headline.

Bernama, which is the country's official news agency, reproduced a statement on their website by Malaysia's communications and multimedia minister in which he called 1MDB the subject of "unprecedented politically-motivated attacks" and said and that the law suit "has nothing to do with the Prime Minister".

Users on Twitter were quick to pick up the apparent lack of news.

Image copyright Twitter/@Ambiga_S
Image caption This user is one of many critical of the lack of coverage by Malaysian media
Image copyright Twitter/@el_flynn
Image caption "Absolutely nothing" on Malaysian news this morning, says this netizen

In 2015, Malaysia blocked news websites and shutdown newspapers that had run articles on the corruption allegations surrounding PM Najib Razak.

It also issued an arrest warrant for the editor of the Sarawak Report website who accused the country of "silencing free media".

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