Woman pleads guilty for lobbying to drop 1MDB probe

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by BLOOMBERG

HONOLULU resident and political fundraiser Nickie Mali Lum Davis has pleaded guilty for facilitating a back-channel lobbying campaign to drop the US investigations on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Lum Davis pleaded guilty before US District Judge Leslie Kobayashi on Monday to one count of aiding and abetting in violation of the US’ Foreign Agents Registration Act — a law which requires agents acting for a foreign principal to register with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and disclose their activities to the public.

Sentencing for Lum Davis will be set on a date to be determined, the DoJ said in a statement.

Lum Davis admitted that she and a few others helped put together a covert deal to get the Trump administration to drop its pursuit of international fugitive Jho Taek Low, or Jho Low, who is widely accused of being the mastermind behind the 1MDB theft.

Lum Davis said between March 2017 and January 2018, she and others agreed to lobby US President Donald Trump, the Attorney General, high-level officials and the DoJ to drop civil forfeiture proceedings and a criminal investigation into 1MDB.

The lobbying campaign included attempts to schedule a golf meeting between Trump and then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak to allow the latter to raise the 1MDB issue.

The DoJ said Lum Davis was paid at least US$3 million (RM12.4 million) by “Foreign National A” — a reference to Jho Low — for her role, which she agreed to forfeit as part of her plea agreement.

Lum Davis and her co-conspirators also agreed to lobby the administration and DoJ for the removal and return of a dissident Chinese national — believed to be exiled tycoon Guo Wengwui — who was living in the US on a temporary visa, according to the 39-page charging document filed by prosecutors.

The lobbying effort was done on behalf of Jho Low and a Chinese government minister.

The DoJ said the accused and her associates did not disclose to officials who they were working for. Both campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful.

US Attorney Kenji M Price of the Hawaii District said though her efforts were unsuccessful, the case demonstrated how foreign governments sought to advance their agendas in the US by hiding behind politically influential proxies.

“As this prosecution makes clear, those who line their pockets by facilitating a foreign national’s campaign to lobby our nation’s leaders will not hide under a cloak of anonymity,” he said.

George Higginbotham, a senior congressional affairs specialist at the DoJ, previously pleaded guilty on Nov 30, 2018, for his role in the scheme, in which he conspired to make false statements to banks about the source and purpose of the tens of millions of dollars in foreign lobbying funds.