I thank you for your indulgence as we leapt ahead of the bulk of this story in the last chapters to speak of Anwar’s Turkish connections and money machine. There will be more on Anwar’s finances as we go on – as I said, they can truly be likened to an ocean – but for now, let us return to the wreckage of Ghafar Baba’s career and the blossoming of Anwar’s.

Anwar Ibrahim was a man for whom fortune did not merely smile, it offered to carry his briefcase. But his incredible run of luck, his numerous talents, and what appeared to be a void in his soul that allowed him to be anything and everything to anyone and everyone else would have been wasted but for Mahathir’s patronage – a patronage that would very soon prove very dangerous and mistaken in the end.

Explaining how Mahathir missed all of this for so long requires understanding some things about the man lost on the young – when I first told my sons this story, what should have been a quick five minutes instead turned into an hour-long history lesson on Malaysia, the details of which seem lost to the mists of time today. For this, no secret files are needed, merely the accounts of eyewitnesses who lived there.

Well, perhaps a few semi-secret files.

As I’ve mentioned before, Mahathir had fought his way out of the political wilderness all the way to Prime Minister by his own force of will and by his predecessor’s almost accidental decisions. Once there, he’d spent almost the entire 1980s cementing his control of his own party and ruthlessly driving PAS into permanent minority status. In the process, his tendency to Malay chauvinism and his response to the Umno Team A/Team B split had opened fissures in Barisan Nasional that he would spend the next decade unsuccessfully repairing as he drove Malaysia toward the 21st Century.

Mahathir, you see, really was preparing to hand over the reins to Anwar – but he wanted his legacy, and Malaysia’s future, secure first. The old man clearly believed Anwar his natural heir as the outsider who’d come in determined to conquer the world. It was yet another case of Anwar being Anwar, being everything to everyone. A master manipulator. He even fooled Dr M.

And so Mahathir was obsessed with Vision 2020, and Putrajaya, and Cyberjaya, and bringing Malaysia into the foremost of the ranks of nations. Formula One teams, infrastructure development, all of that talk of ‘green spaces’, all of the things that other nations take for granted, Mahathir wanted for his beloved country.

The first thing was to eliminate the power of Malaysia’s royalty to stymie his programmes, a feat he accomplished in 1994 by constitutional amendment and publicising the alleged extent of the corruption, viciousness, and venality present in some of their households – and all because one hockey coach was beaten. With that remaining threat eliminated, that meant Mahathir’s only real opponents would be inside his own team.

This ruthless consolidation of power would earn Mahathir several well-deserved titles, ‘autocrat’ among them. He was a man who tended to see politics not as the give and take of opinion, but as a war that must be won at all costs. Political opponents should not merely be defeated, they should be crushed and if necessary imprisoned.

And it must be remembered, he still faced war in his own party.

This was no small thing, much as it is no small thing for Najib now. Then as now, an old guard who believed in personal advancement before public service – and were therefore a drain on and impediment to large-scale infrastructure projects – was riddled throughout Barisan Nasional. Mahathir had only a few years before he succeeded in reunifying his party, and did not have enough internal political capital to toss aside those old warlords, even as they worked to undermine him again and again.

What this in turn meant was that Mahathir had to tolerate a certain level of corruption even while working behind the scenes to stem it. He had a macro-plan for Malaysia, and he was thinking big. He therefore tolerated corruption in his mega-projects – Anwar’s corruption, quite often – in the Peninsular and in Borneo, believing the cost was worthwhile. Anything that stood in his way needed to be eliminated or suborned.

Mahathir fought these pitched battles even as he guided his country into its position as one of the ‘Asian Tigers,’ the economies taking off so rapidly and, in theory, showing the old West how to beat the world.

It was in this environment, with his trusting patron occupied, that Anwar would expand, and finally become too comfortable, and too secure. It is here that his certainty that he would always win would finally trigger the chain of events that led to his downfall.

It is important to remember that while Anwar is a bit of a bumbler these days, perhaps a bit too busy to keep his own coalition unified, back in the 1990s he was on top of his game. So many aligned with him on the strength of his force of will, his charisma, his intelligence, his canniness …… and of course, his graft and scheming.

It was a good time to have business concerns in Malaysia.

I had gone, since coming here, from being a salaried field agent to being the deep cover MD of a small multinational, to opening a specialised consultancy that brought the best of both worlds together. I had never cheated on my taxes or in business, I had worked hard, and I had been blessed with a brilliant local wife who somehow managed to raise our children and provide me the sort of shrewd outsider’s view that is so vital to anyone running a complex set of activities and surrounded by chaps who all see the world the same way.

But being in Malaysia in the 1990s made everyone involved with making money look good.

I nevertheless insisted on getting my hands dirty. My father instilled in me lessons learned from his time in the Air Force: Stay in, stay engaged, support your wing, and you’ll both come home.

So it was that one beautiful morning I discovered that the Prime Minister was taking an extended holiday in Italy, and making his Deputy Prime Minister his temporary replacement.

Looking through the file notes my assistant had worked up, I asked, “Why does the name Paul Wolfowitz sound familiar?” The other names were immediately apparent – William Cohen, Richard Holbrooke, Madeleine Albright, all members of the American Cabinet or its foreign policy apparatus – but the name was tickling me for some reason.

“Former Reagan Administration official, and old friend of Anwar’s,” Philip responded. He’d left our old shop shortly after I had, and I’d gladly taken him on as my associate. “He’s in touch with the Republican opposition, sort of an intermediary between his old friends at State and Defense.”

I nodded. “Why on Earth are these names arranged here as if they’re somehow important?”

“Anwar has been preparing the ground for a sudden takeover. He’s trying to get it pre-cleared with the Brits and the Americans. Those are the Americans he’s contacted who we can confirm are Anwar-friendly, and they’ve all given him the thumbs-up.”

To say there was no love lost between Mahathir Mohamad and the Americans is to understate the matter. Reagan had respected him for what he’d done to the Communists, and the elder Bush had found Mahathir’s positioning on the Israelis unhelpful, but Bill Clinton saw in Mahathir everything he hated: Protectionist, chauvinist, stern, proud, authoritarian, and prone to bucking the President of the United States in all but the direst of situations.

In Anwar, finally, here was a Malaysian politician that the Democrats could appreciate. The perfect chameleon. The man who seemed to share the values of the American establishment. Anwar did not drink, but even by the mid-1990s the tales of his alleged infidelity were thick on the ground, and he had meanwhile decided at some point that in economics, he would be a neoliberal.

Neo-liberalism clashed with Mahathir’s more guarded approach of sheltering – one might say favouring – certain industries and companies until they were strong enough to compete on the global stage, but the friction this caused between the two men was minimal: Anwar yielded where Mahathir was most insistent, and with the raging economic boom in the region, everything everyone did seemed to turn to gold.

But to the Americans, neo-liberalism was the only acceptable form of economic policy, and Anwar played them well. Mahathir’s open anti-Semitism was a particular affront to Western leaders, who treat that behaviour as a sickness – a view Anwar nurtured. According to first-hand reports, Anwar actually won over Wolfowitz by seeming to be pro-Jewish and by condemning Mahathir behind his back. Coupled with his bold and eloquent proclamations at various international fora – Shakespeare and TS Eliot quotes at the ready – here at last was the Malaysian for whom the world had been looking: a Malaysian who could prove charming in Washington, D.C. and right-minded in Whitehall, a Malaysian who could mutter to Wolfowitz that it was a shame Mahathir was such a Jew-hater.

When Anwar came to them and let them know that he hoped for change in his country and that Mahathir would soon be gone, they were overjoyed. Anwar made himself into a hero of the State Department and the East Coast Jewish establishment, both Democrats and Republicans.

But it was not just abroad that Anwar began to work in earnest for the takeover, with a special emphasis on his portfolio in Finance. As I mentioned before, he understood the importance of media control. The business editors and reporters of the New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia were threatened and where appropriate replaced or supplemented with ‘deputy editors’ who would see to it that coverage of Anwar was not merely favourable, but glowing. The editors of those papers and at TV3 exercised final control, and worked diligently to reinforce the message.

It was here that Anwar began to overplay his hand. Mahathir, for all of his many flaws, is not a man who believes in luxurious holidays. Anwar’s unrelenting caginess had finally slipped, and when given the chance to exercise power as Acting Prime Minister, his pride overwhelmed him.

We were all a bit surprised by Mahathir’s decision to go on holiday, and decided that the old man was either testing Anwar’s fitness to be Prime Minister; preparing to step down himself; or – and this is something I frankly did not believe at the time – testing Anwar’s loyalty. To this day, none of us quite know why Mahathir did what he did. He’s been cagey about it all these years, and I personally suspect he is still hurt by Anwar’s betrayal. Regardless, off he went. Anwar stepped hungrily into the gap.

One of his first major acts was the Anti-Corruption Act, a facially commendable move designed to replace the 1961 Act and to root-out the perennial corruption in Malaysia’s political system. Of course, we all noticed that he waited until the probe of his political secretary Azmin Ali had been shelved and then appointed cronies to fill every slot created or reformed by the ACA. Rumours were that he almost appointed Azmin to head the agency, but common sense finally got the better of him.

Eliminating corruption is one of those noble things politicians like to talk about, and that a handful actually want to do. Anwar was not one of those. He directed his appointments to begin investigating every enemy he had in Umno, fairly transparently to develop files on each for later use. He even sent his best men tunneling into Mahathir and his family, hoping to prepare the trump cards needed to win out in the leadership battle he saw coming.

This was all obvious to any intelligent observer at the time. My only question – answered in the negative both by my associates and by later events – was whether Anwar realised that Mahathir already had a box of files deep on him.

By this point, we were largely resigned to Anwar becoming the Prime Minister. I was in a meeting in July when one of my juniors raced into the conference room to tell me that there was a panicked call coming in from our subsidiary in Bangkok: The government there was set to float the baht. What had up until that point been concern about Thailand’s finances was now dangerously close to becoming a financial contagion.

The chain of events this set in motion completely rewrote Malaysia’s political landscape.

The Asian Financial Crisis had struck. We all lost a great deal of money.

Anwar would lose far more.

One by one, the Asian Tigers started to falter and collapse. Real estate prices cratered. Centuries-old trading houses were crammed down in vicious takeovers. Governments faltered and in a handful of cases fell. Malaysia, stronger in its own way than many, was pushed to the brink: shares fell by over two-thirds, the ringgit nearly collapsed, foreign direct investment plunged, and riots began.

The West stood with its mouth agape. When it finally realised the extent and the depth of the crisis, it reached for the only policy tool it had at hand: The International Monetary Fund.

The IMF is a curious institution, and certainly a polarising one. Its opponents accuse it of neoliberalism and neo-colonialism; its supporters describe it as one of the bulwarks of the international system.

It’s really just a group of clods.

The IMF’s policy prescriptions are almost invariably associated with loans and conditionality; its loans, with its policy prescriptions; and its policy prescriptions, with demands for austerity and some sort of governmental reform. This tends not to work, because financial crises tend to be immune to easy resolution by any system.

It is here that most observers believe they know the story: Anwar sided with the IMF. He blamed ‘cronyism and corruption’ for the crisis, never explaining how his own cronyism and corruption and the system he created and maintained as DPM was not a key factor. He implemented austerity programmes, including cutting government expenditures and ministerial and government salaries by upward of 20 per cent, and stripping funding from the enormous infrastructure projects into which the country had poured so much effort for so long.

He also let every press outlet with a Singapore or KL office know that he was a sudden and devout convert to the cause of free market capitalism. Mahathir, by contrast, blamed the entire crisis on foreign currency speculation, was not about to be dictated to by the IMF, and was not about to see Anwar and his friend the international financier George Soros win the day.

Mahathir claims to have been vindicated by history, a claim greater in the telling than in the proof. Those Asian Tigers who adopted austerity and free market reforms recovered as quickly as those that did not; and at any rate, Mahathir’s almost paranoid insistence on blaming the crisis on the Jews seemed deranged and also alienated Western nations at a critical time.

As the story goes, so began the rift between Anwar and Mahathir in earnest. And it is true, so far as it goes.

But the real story is deeper. In Hong Kong in September of 1997, the major economies of the world were working desperately to avoid an international financial collapse, and to get the Asian Tigers running again. While there, Mahathir and Soros began taking potshots at each other in the assembled international press, with everything from attacks on preferred policy (Mahathir called for an end to currency exchanges, Soros called for a variation on the IMF prescriptions) to personal attacks.

Into this free-fire zone Anwar leaped. He began immediately explaining away Mahathir’s comments, taking Soros’s arguments as his own, and even occasionally directly undercutting Mahathir with hundreds of reporters about. He portrayed this to the gullible reporters covering the event as his heroic attempt to save Malaysia from Mahathir’s ill-considered rhetoric.

This was not mere insubordination. Malaysian civil society was on the brink. Anwar was damaging Malaysia. Seeing where Indonesia was headed, he was inciting anti-Mahathir sentiment. It worked because some foreign investors were frightened of Mahathir’s rhetoric,; and Mahathir was frightened of the enormous damage those same investors had just done in the region. The question of how to stabilise the ringgit and to keep Malaysia from devolving into chaos was not a trivial one, nor an easily-resolved one.

Indeed, Anwar began working in secret and in earnest with the American delegation to pave his way to the top, pointing up Mahathir’s ‘dangerous’ talk. Members of the Clinton Administration – from Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (in Hong Kong) to Defense Secretary William Cohen – told Anwar that Washington was behind him. Wolfowitz and his allies in the Republican Congress also sent their encouragement. Wolfowitz was enthusiastic, according to one of his aides, and determined to see Anwar become Prime Minister.

Anwar’s Saudi backers, delighted at seeing their Islamist protégé finally reach his goal, pledged billions of ringgit to aid Malaysia after his ascent. Their funds would be credited to Anwar’s leadership, and would sweep him – and his radical real agenda – into a lock on power greater than Mahathir’s ever was.

Word was sent back to Anwar’s cronies to prepare for the sudden change, to be executed in 1998.

On Anwar’s return to Malaysia, he doubled down on his austerity programme. He felt emboldened; after all, Mahathir had done nothing more than dress him down in private. Anwar had truly begun to believe the image he had crafted for himself.

Mahathir was incensed, but more importantly, if he had harboured any doubts about Anwar to that point, they were finally vanquished. On his return to Malaysia, he summoned his closest advisors – those who he could be sure were not Anwar’s – into a private meeting at an advisor’s home. Seri Perdana had not yet been completed, and everyone assumed there was no safe place in any government building for this meeting.

While Mahathir was designing the currency controls and reforms that would ultimately stablise and save Malaysia, he appointed his most loyal followers to another cause: Determine whether Anwar could be saved, or whether he was past redemption. He was not ready to let Anwar go yet, but he was still loathe to destroy the man he’d once thought of as like a son.

It was some time later that Mahathir finally began to use the weapons at his disposal to destroy his deputy once and for all. He opened his files to his allies, not just on Anwar, but on Anwar’s friends, allies, cronies, and family.

In the end, it was his corruption, and not his dalliances, that would bring Anwar down.

But that is a story for next time.



The hard thing for the conspiracy-minded to understand is that most of the world as we see it is the truth. Most of the things that we think happen behind closed doors actually do happen. It is just that some politicians are better at covering their tracks than others.

It is amazing how much one can find out by investigating those who never really bother to hide things too carefully – such as bank accounts in the United States or in Israel that contain pieces of a war chest for a Malaysian politician named Anwar Ibrahim. One might find behind-the-scenes connections to Wahhabi agents from Riyadh, or even occult money and political schemes launched together with the Islamist-leaning leaders of modern Turkey.

We are not speaking here of clandestine operations, but of money transfers and laundering; of special accounts in Turkey for financing Malaysian political operations; of mobile and barelyconcealed political operatives; and even of a Turkish foreign minister with university experience in Malaysia, a true Islamist radical, who got all wrapped up in political plotting in Malaysia with and on behalf of his friend Anwar. We are speaking of Anwar’s support for Turkey’s AKP party through political and media channels. Much of this was financed by Anwar’s money, some of it going back to pay Turkish political operatives who would enter Malaysia to assist Anwar.

I have spoken extensively of Anwar’s ties, from his student radical days all the way to the present, to the most extreme of the Saudi oligarchs, both in terms of ideology and in terms of funding. Anwar was hardly their only project, though they have long taken a special interest in him. Everywhere Muslims were governed by secular – or, worse to their eyes, moderate Muslim – governments, there the Saudis have planted their flag. Money, material, logistics, teaching, and training – they have supplied it all, funded by the world’s use of their only natural resource.

This was true in Indonesia, though that project has been much less successful than elsewhere. Singapore locked them out. The Chinese have been brutal with Wahhabi missionaries in Xinjiang Province, but the House of Saud is nothing if not patient. The former Soviet republics in Central Asia have been ripe for the plucking, though their leadership also has a somewhat severe approach to unwanted radicals.

Turkey has long been a central dream of the Islamists. The home of the last Caliphate, the Ottomans swept with fire and death and righteous fervour through Asia and Europe, tossing aside the tottering old Islamic sultans and lesser caliphs and Europeans alike. Stopped only at Lepanto and at the gates Vienna, for hundreds of years they were the scourge of Europe and Christendom, and turned whole nations of devout Christians into fervent Muslim warriors.

The Ottomans were what every little jihadi wants to be when he grows up. Bringing them into the Wahhabi fold – despite their decades-long policy of secular government, backed by a military fiercely committed to that ideal – would be one of the greatest coups of all.

It is in Turkey – through a portion of the I-Files that were never part of the original, and only added after furious searching when Anwar fled to the Turkish Embassy in 2008 – that we can see how Anwar was specially connected to the worldwide Wahhabi movement, and how it has become one of his touchstones.

I beg your indulgence as we leap ahead to when I first began to wonder about these things, as for once my network of informants was only as fast as the local media, and I turned on the telly to observe Anwar doing his best (and most melodramatic) impersonation of a political refugee fearing for his life and running to the Turkish Embassy in KL.

By 2008, I was flitting in and out of Malaysia with some frequency. My wife and children would usually accompany me, along with a train of tutors, aides, and secretaries. While Anwar’s release from prison some years before had been quite the bit of news, and had generated a renewed burst of intelligence gathering, I had left most of the day-to-day operations with my subordinates as I tended to unrelated concerns on the other side of the world.

We had returned in late June when I got a call on my mobile from my office. I almost sent it straight to voice mail, but instead picked up.

“You must turn on TV3. Now.” With that, my secretary hung up. I assumed something important had happened, so I did as I was bidden.

My first thought was Sodomy, again? I am hardly privy to Anwar’s sexual escapades, but the rumours of his infidelity, with both men and women, had circulated long before Mahathir ejected him from Government, and even on his successful appeal, the court made clear to underline its thoughts on his sexual behaviour. But that thought was quickly lost in the more interesting details of Anwar’s flight to the Turkish embassy.

Anwar’s persistent melodrama was piled high in this caper: He ran to the Turkish embassy and posted a statement on his blog, saying that political developments have put his life in danger. “Certain agents” of Barisan Nasional “have initiated plots” to harm him, he said.

Even better, Anwar said, “I have been told that my assassination has not been ruled out as means to subvert the people’s will and bring an end to the transformational changes taking place in Malaysia.”

This would be unbelievable in a poor novel, so bad no author would expect an audience to believe it. But Anwar did.

After watching for a while the sordid Anwar-flees-to-the-Turkish-embassy story, I picked up my Blackberry and sent off a single instruction to my team.

Stop watching the bloody tube and find out why he ran first to Turkey. Why Turkey?

Of course, to answer that question, we would first need to learn more about Turkey and its government, something I’d eschewed as the country had drifted gradually in the direction of more radical Islam over time. With the exception of Malaysia during Anwar’s time in Government, I’d had an iron-clad rule that no funds of mine would support people who would force sh’ria on a people. I’d had quite enough of that kind of brutality from the Soviets, thank you.

ORIGIN: GS-95191A2
DATE: 2008-06-28 2215 GMT+8 (SEND GMT-6)

CENTWIRE informs of increase in traffic into EMB-TURKEY since 2000 KLT from surrogates for Opposition Leader ANWAR IBRAHIM and from QUALITY HOTEL in Shah Alam. Cause unclear. Sources in PKRHQ inform us that ANWAR IBRAHIM to make some sort of announcement at EMB-TURKEY.

PM-TURKEY and FM-TURKEY old associates of ANWAR IBRAHIM. DOSSIERS from ANK already sent ON-PR-1. Should be present in KL by 1 p.m. tomorrow.

SECSTATE has asked for updates.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islamist party were the first, and most obvious stop. As with so many Wahhabi machinations, the truth was fairly easily discovered – at least on the surface.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Anwar and Erdoğan had been frequent and devout attendees at conferences, youth gatherings, and academic events held in Saudi Arabia for the network of protégés the Saudis developed over time. They were able to put aside their secular political leanings – Anwar was enamoured of Marxism, Erdoğan a devout anti-communist – because of a belief in a purifying strain of radical Islam that could bring the world a little closer to perfection, and a belief in presenting this strain to the electorate through the lens of apparently moderate Islam.

Erdoğan was a prime pupil, a man who hated the communists (as the Saudis did), who hated the Jews (as the Saudis did), who was possessed of enormous energy and drive (as the Saudis were), and who, it was felt, could blend into the mainstream of Turkey’s society and slowly alter its course (as the Saudis could not). His political career mirrored Anwar’s in critical ways – the convert to the mainstream, the respected secular leader (as mayor of Istanbul) whose radical trappings seemed to largely disappear, the imprisoned political hero held out of national elections.

Whilst they diverged in Erdoğan’s successful return to politics, and rise to the Prime Minister’s slot, they shared the critical feature of Saudi backing and patronage in common. Prince Nayef, of the House of Saud, backed both Anwar and Erdoğan, as well as their respective parties, because Nayef – an odd, self-impressed little man, to be sure – is as canny as anyone who has ever lived. It is no coincidence that both Anwar’s and Erdoğan’s parties use ‘Justice’ in their titles – Nayef is a great fan of the word, though he sees its meaning differently than most.

He has long seen Anwar and Erdoğan as his best bets, as the first line of assault in bringing their two countries into the Wahhabi fold, and so he poured and continues to pour Saudi assets and money into both Erdoğan’s and Anwar’s parties, advancing them and their causes. With both, he has been successful. Erdoğan not only normalised relations with Saudi Arabia – a first after four decades of estrangement after the House of Saud first attempted to gain a beachhead there – but also invited King Abdullah, the man who with his brother Fahd had first poisoned relations between the two states, to not one, but two ceremonial visits to Istanbul.

More importantly, Erdoğan successfully broke the army’s historic role in maintaining Ataturk’s policy of a secular sphere once and for all. When Erdoğan’s moves signaled the return of creeping Islamism, the Army attempted to intervene to restore the secular balance. Generals resigned, but Erdoğan managed not only to hold his government together, but to unilaterally replace those generals with his stooges, thus breaking the army’s sworn duty to uphold the secular state once and for all.

Policy followed leadership, and soon Erdoğan was driving his country to closer relationships with Saudi Arabia, lifting the decades-long ban on headscarves (whilst his NGOs began proselytising their use and his wife wore them at every occasion), and eroding Ataturk’s successful creation of a powerful, modern state, all while a gullible Western press looked on.

That was no coincidence; Erdoğan and Anwar share not only funding, but the same media operations, even some of the same strategists for campaigns, who are expert at bringing gullible Western reporters on junkets to Georgetown, Istanbul, Ankara, and Kuala Lumpur, building influence the old-fashioned way.

He and Anwar remained very close, and Erdoğan was one of Anwar’s preferred guests while the latter was Deputy Prime Minister. Under the cover of advancing Islamic governance in the modern world, the two men hosted each other in countless conferences and official meetings in Kuala Lumpur and Istanbul in the 1990s, and Anwar continues to make Istanbul one of his homes away from home even now.

Their ventures together – a veritable smorgasbord of benign-sounding non-governmental organisations – simply expanded the aegis under which the two men, especially Anwar, have been able to operate: The Global Peace Mission, the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World, the Future Global Network, the World Futures Online, the World Civilisation Research Group, the Center for Study of Islam & Democracy – the list goes on for some time. These entities operate and operated out of Malaysia, Turkey, London, and the United States, serving the dual purpose of providing funding and intellectual legitimacy for both men as they reached out abroad.

It is no secret that the Al Baraka bank – the source of so much of Anwar’s financial strength – has also backed Erdoğan, maintaining offices in Istanbul for precisely that purpose. That relationship began in earnest in the 1980s, when Erdoğan’s first political party was dissolved for preaching radical Islam, and continues to this day. Through Al Baraka and their own web of funding entities, the two men sponsored strident – if iconoclastic – Islamic radicals such as Hassan al-Turabi in Sudan and others who argued for the imposition of sh’ria law on Muslims everywhere.

When the American government began to close in on the IIIT – Anwar’s central source of legitimacy and an element of his laundering – the Institute began moving its assets to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in coordination with the NGOs Anwar and Erdoğan had established for precisely that purpose. When the remainder of Anwar’s NGOs in the US came under further scrutiny, he shut most of them down, one by one, moving their assets and offices to the friendliest country he knew – Turkey.

When Anwar was released from prison, and began to reconstruct his political and economic fortunes, he turned to the only two sources he truly trusted: Erdoğan and the Saudis. With their extensive network of NGOs, proxy accounts, reserve funds, and funding opportunities, Anwar was able to quickly re-establish himself politically and financially.

Yet it was not only on Erdoğan that Anwar relied, but also later on Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, as well. Davutoğlu is in many ways Anwar’s truest friend in the AKP – an intellectual, a professor, and a believer in a creed that he refuses to call neo-Ottoman but which calls for Turkey to once again be at the centre of the Islamic world, guiding a new Caliphate to glory. This was not Davutoğlu’s original idea, but the idea that fired his imagination, and drove him to seek out like-minded men wherever they may be found.

It was no coincidence that Davutoğlu was briefly a student and, more importantly, a professor at IIU during Anwar’s days overseeing the institution, an intellectual who happily brought Saudi theology to once-moderate Malaysia. He was on the leading edge of renewed relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, working hand-in-glove with Saudi Arabia’s policy establishment to bring the two countries closer, a project he had imagined during the days and nights discussing hudud with Anwar.

When Anwar needed a stage for his Theatre of the Absurd – when he needed a true ally who would never question Anwar’s ridiculous claims to being in mortal peril over a sodomy charge – Anwar knew there was one embassy, and one foreign ministry, that would not look askance, and would never publicly question the entire stunt.

And so it was that he fled to the Turkish Embassy when faced with new sodomy charges. While many news reports claimed that Anwar had considered several possible refuges, there was really only one he trusted to sever ties with Putrajaya if need be, one where he knew staunch friends were waiting. And so he used his Turkish connection.

DATE: 2008-06-30 1402 GMT-6 (SEND GMT+8)



Review of DOSSIERS shows extensive ties between ANWAR IBRAHIM and PMTURKEY and FM-TURKEY. GOV-TURKEY filled with ANWAR contacts. CS-ANK informs that EMB-TURK BARLAS OZENER agreed to assist ANWAR with scene at request of FM-TURKEY.

ANWAR IBRAHIM has now departed EMB-TURKEY. Extensive wire traffic between EMBTURKEY and FM-MALAYSIA suggesting poisoned relations. EMB-TURKEY for FMTURKEY informed ANWAR to depart, ANWAR departed ahead of demand.

NO SOURCES show substantiation of “death threats” as ANWAR IBRAHIM claimed on 6.29.2008. OPS in PM-MALAYSIA completely unaware of same.


GOV-MALAYSIA’s judiciary’s independence was in some doubt decade ago after PM-MALAYSIA MAHATHIR MOHAMAD. ANWAR IBRAHIM claims new sodomy charges attempt to end his return to politics. Not clear. ANWAR IBRAHIM has known penchant for street politics and street theater. Expect last two days to feature in protests.

The entirety of the material related to Anwar and his ties to Erdoğan took time to develop, and it was not until after the fateful 16 September 2008 promise was made – and abandoned – that it was usefully collated. My compatriots and I only discussed it briefly at the time, but the more we dug the more we discovered. And ultimately we found that an active financial and political channel between Anwar and his Islamist friends in Turkey was a key to understanding his plans, dreams and tactics.

As I noted before, I fear I have quite gotten ahead of myself. It is perhaps time to return to the central narrative, and resume where we left off: With Anwar growing his war chest, and preparing to replace Mahathir once and for all. This is perhaps the most remarkable part of the story, for it was the first time Anwar had so badly miscalculated when chance thrust his opportunity on him.

It begins with Mahathir’s recognition that he’d clutched a cobra to his bosom.

Here, though we did not realise it at the time, is where the Saudis first began to redouble their efforts with both men. Erdoğan’s sentence for revealing his radical roots – by calling for a religious uprising in the form of a poem at a political demonstration – virtually overlapped with Anwar’s sacking after his coup attempt failed. Unwilling to abandon assets developed over the course of nearly three decades, the Saudis began applying monetary, political, and diplomatic pressure to preserve both men, with indifferent success.

Their attempts to save Anwar began almost immediately with Mahathir’s swift measures. It is a story – from Anwar’s first betrayal through his successful appeal – that is almost as remarkable as what came before, and its reach – from Washington to Riyadh to Ankara to Putrajaya – brings together all of the things that brought Anwar so close to power in the late 1990s, even though he was doomed to fail. The length and breadth of it is, however, a tale for next time.


The Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a privately-held institution based in Luxembourg for corporate purposes, publicly closed and indicted by numerous countries in the early 1990s, was in fact still operating from that dilapidated façade in Lahore for more than a decade after its closure. Well not exactly the bank, but its bankers – unofficially, of course.

In the annals of international banking, BCCI earned special dishonours for serving as a moneylaundering operation for everyone from the Medellin narco-terrorist cartel to the Abu Nidal terrorists – murderers of Jews and Arabs alike by the end – to the CIA’s funding of its operations in Afghanistan, including the training of anti-Soviet fighters by a 1980s favourite of the CIA, a fellow named Osama bin Laden.

The bank had been founded in 1972 by Agha Hasan Abedi, a Pakistani financier whose disciples would become friends of the Wahhabis and of Anwar’s inner circle. At its peak it operated in 78 countries, had over 400 branches, and assets of US $21 billion. It was, by the late 1980s, the seventh-biggest bank in the world.

The men who had established BCCI were some of the most talented bankers on the planet, and when BCCI met its nominal end in 1991, they had reached out to select patrons, determined to rebuild their operations in a more careful setting. The CIA, which had disavowed any involvement in BCCI as the institution came to what appeared to be its end, recognised the value of having a black-ops bank with worldwide offices, and so helped the men from BCCI swing back into work – unofficially, of course.

In a crushing double-irony, BCCI would both become Osama bin Laden’s bank of choice (after Al Baraka) and, even more perversely, through a handful of its surviving veteran bankers by now operating in a new clandestine network in 2011, also one of the funding arms through which Osama’s execution was effected.

Anwar, perhaps unwittingly, was introduced to some of the BCCI veterans in Pakistan by his former speechwriter, Munawar Anees, and his ghostwriter, Faiz Abdullah. The former, a Pakistani with long ties to both Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service and to some of the financiers who reconstituted BCCI, was instrumental in establishing Anwar’s financial network.

Anwar’s entry – not directly, but through others – into the network of BCCI veterans was vouched-for by Paul Wolfowitz, whose ties to BCCI went back to his days in the Reagan Administration, and to one Douglas Paal – of whom we will speak more shortly.

Anwar relied on a network of front companies anchored by deposits, transactions, and fund transfers through the remnants of the BCCI network, Israel Discount Bank, Al Baraka, Hong Leong, and a Hong Kong-based entity called Hong Kong Venture Ltd. Through his Saudi patrons, and through the network of bankers, tax lawyers, and financial specialists he employed, Anwar and his cronies established a network for financial transactions and investments through which money was washed again and again over time. It was a very big laundry machine.

In a curious choice, Anwar’s special-purpose investment vehicles were almost always named some variation on Black Rock. Those vehicles would invest and hold funds, sending them back into the main network as needed. In this way, around RM4.5 billion – not the mere RM3 billion Murad describes – sloshed its way around the globe up until the time of Anwar’s sacking in 1998. Since then, it appears that the mechanisms remain basically the same.

An example should suffice.

In early 1997, as a small part of the “sucking sound” of money being drawn back into Malaysia in advance of Anwar’s attempt to bring down Mahathir once and for all, US$15 million was wired from a surrogate used by the ex-BCCI team to Hong Leong accounts through Bank Negara. Those funds briefly passed through a nominal BNM account number and were never recorded by Bank Negara’s normal procedures. Two senior vice-presidents signed off on the transfer, which was immediately after burned to ash.

The US$15 million began life in four different places:

Some US$5 million came out of IIIT’s central, indirectly-held accounts in Washington, DC, after which it was diverted through a special-instructions account at a very well known US bank whose name it is better not to disclose. It was then sent to Black Rock Capital Advisors and Investment Partners, LLC, a special-purpose entity based in the Caymans that existed partially for investment purposes and partially for transfers. Black Rock never even knew from where the funds really came. Then some US$3 million went to a special private equity fund specialising in restaurants and food operations in North America. There, it accrued value for a year before being diverted to special accounts offshore; its earnings went back through the New York bank to IIIT’s holding accounts. The remaining US$2 million went to Banque Suisse, and then through a very private Swiss fund which operated a series of special-investment hedge funds for Saudi princes, Gulf emirs, Turkish politicians, and Anwar. One year later, the total earnings – roughly US$6 million – were passed on to other accounts in Islamabad.

Obsidian Investment Partners, an Israeli private equity fund that specialised in opaque transactions for opaque clientele, wired US$3 million to Israel Discount Bank LTD, perhaps the oldest such institution in Israel – and the most discreet. As with all of these transfers, the wire did not have Obsidian’s name on it. IDB held the funds in its Special Investor Accounts, which are largely dedicated to financing Tel Aviv’s booming development – nightclubs, fledgling casinos, restaurants, office towers, residential building – for two years before sending, indirectly, what was then US$5 million to Lahore. As far as IDB was concerned, their client could have been Jewish. Little did they know.

Pitch Marble Holdings, an umbrella group based out of the Caymans with a completely Malaysian board of directors, released US$2 million from its reserves directly to a Pakistani company just two days before the greater total amount was delivered through BNM. Pitch Marble was folded by its nominee administrators shortly thereafter, and disappeared forever.

Just over US$2 million went from Anwar’s special account at Al Baraka (an unnamed account, so not even the bank’s insiders could know with certainty whose money this was) to yet another special account at a prominent bank in Geneva, and from there to a Hong-Kong-based private fund called, unbelievably, Granite Holdings, for a ‘capital contribution.’ Granite released an identical amount to a special subsidiary of a Hong Kong private equity fund, which in turn had been set up five years before to evade Beijing’s scrutiny in advance of the handover of Hong Kong. That special subsidiary served only a select clientele – politicians, the super-wealthy, and other banks.

Once all of the funds for this transaction were present, the entire amount was wired to Bank Negara. From there, it made its way out to some of the people identified in Murad’s affidavit. Anwar was never mentioned by name in any of the wires. Many of the institutions shut their doors not long after making a transaction.

If one opened and closed a company in an offshore paradise fast enough, it wouldn’t even make it into any online listing, especially if the activities took place before the invention of Google. Most of those countries prided themselves on eliminating their paper records as well.

This is but one example of many over the years, and it is hardly the largest such transaction. In advance of Anwar’s silent coup attempt on Mahathir, over RM240 million made its way back into Malaysia, a larger figure back in 1997 than it would be today. Indeed, Bank Al Taqwa, which had ties to Petronas through Anwar’s cronies there and which acted as a financier for all sorts of strange organisations, directed the transfer of over £40 million through multiple branches of the network into Malaysia in advance of the 1998 Umno General Assembly. Al Taqwa specialised in even more exotic transactions than most – at least part of the £40 million traveled through Oando Group Holdings in Nigeria and Absa (later purchased by Barclay’s) in South Africa before arriving.

However, it is a mistake to believe that Anwar used his money only for direct political gain in Malaysia; he had other fires to tend, as well.

From: Wire Desk 9AA1F Sent: 2 February 1998
Attachments: Wire0015462285302021998.tif

Attached is a wire instruction to receive and deliver off-shore $1 million from an account in Virginia to an account in Grand Cayman. Instruction received at 13:02 this date. The size and turnaround both qualify for enhanced scrutiny and reporting to the New York Fed and FBI under AEDPA wire alert provisions.

Supervisor has signed off on the wire and explained that it is a special instructions wire and not to be impeded. I am directing this up the chain for further decision-making.

“Did you never wonder why?” Phillip asked the fund manager. He got a wry smile in return.

Phillip was both giddy and uncomfortable to be back in the States, and the sudden ubiquity of a chain called Starbucks selling sweet and frothy — he refused to call it ‘coffee’ — drinks seemed to make matters worse – he’d seen the one in KL, but had managed to avoid it. Nevertheless, he’d gamely ordered some horrible latte concoction and nursed it as he delicately asked his old friend why he’d been part of a global money-laundering operation.

His friend – a Californian who had come to New York City to make his name in banking and, by accident, left banking to run a fund with one billion dollars under management – took a gulp of the café-caramel-cream-concoction as if he had been drinking it his whole life. “When a customer instructs us to route money, and he has one of the biggest law firms in the country – the bank’s law firm too – papering it right, why wouldn’t I? When we draw our two per cent every time, and that two per cent rapidly adds into the seven and eight figures, and neither the SEC nor the FDIC nor the FBI nor the Fed is going to make my life miserable?”

Phillip tried not to grimace as he drank the sweet liquid in his cup. “Do you understand where that money was coming from? The same people who tried to bring down the Trade Center in ’93 – you were there! – they’re the ones behind that money.” It was the summer of 2000, the world’s economy was roaring, and no one in his right mind imagined that those same people would succeed a year later. “And what they didn’t put in, the customer skimmed ten per cent off of every, single public listing and government contract in Malaysia for seven years! You moved money that was either from terrorists – or from massive government corruption – or because of who the customer was, or all of the above!”

It was a Starbucks in Midtown Manhattan during the lunch hour rush, so even yelling didn’t penetrate the din.

His old high school chum just gave him a world-weary, slightly condescending smile. Phillip managed not to punch him in the nose.

“We just held and moved money,” he said. “Everything went to different, legitimate, private funds and not-for-profits, every last one registered with the right authorities. I never sent a dime to Hamas, or Hezbollah, or Islamic Jihad, or anything like that! Besides,” he said, “everyone knows that Mahathir had Anwar set up. And Anwar was supposed to be our buddy, isn’t that what the Wolfowitz Directive said?”

Phillip was bothered enough that he missed that question at the time. Sensing that this line of inquiry was getting him nowhere, Phillip changed gears. “Tell me about the money you sent to the Asia-Pacific Policy Center.”

The Asia-Pacific Policy Center features prominently in Murad’s statutory declaration. Again, the substance of Murad’s SD is essentially correct. The particulars are wrong in some of the more salient details. Murad spends an inordinate amount of time on the APPC, so it is perhaps incumbent to point out what Murad got wrong.

Firstly, there is simply no way that Anwar ever suggested that Douglas Paal, the director of APPC (and former CIA analyst), would control Bank Negara’s deposits. Paal is a savvy fellow, and in his line of work, he is one of the tops, from the intelligence world to national security policy to banking to the think tank world. But Anwar would never jeopardise Bank Negara’s utility by putting Paal in charge. Anyone who has met Doug Paal will tell you that this is a man who may have a superb CV, but he would not have – could not have – managed tens of billions of ringgits of deposit reserves. His value in Anwar’s eyes would have been more about image-building with the Washington establishment than about money, and as a former spook who was now respectable.

Murad was also wrong about how APPC and Paal were financed – and not merely because the amounts he claims were directed to them were far too low. As I discussed above, Anwar kept very little in BNM accounts. Rather, he used BNM as a clearing-house through which his funds occasionally travelled, in and out of Malaysia, and even then, the funds did not go via BNM, they merely were eased in and out of the country with the help of some of Anwar’s friends at BNM.

Beyond that, Murad was basically correct. Paal and APPC were, as he alleged, a part of Anwar’s relations with the West in that they supported Anwar – in testimony before Congress, it came out that APPC referred to Anwar as a “client.” Along with IIIT and APPC, Anwar used ISIS to bring Westerners, especially Americans, to Malaysia. (As Murad notes, these events were always in Malaysia, because that is where Anwar was – and Anwar was their funder.) ISIS came with Noordin Sopiee (the creator of the Vision 2020 idea) a useful, if unwitting pawn, the brilliant, Western-educated Malaysian who, in conjunction with Anwar, could give sparkling dinners to Congressmen who had never left the United States in their lives.

Those men and women would be ferried the next day to special talks given by APPC, who had ties to both parties in Washington, about how Malaysia (under Anwar) was open to the West, and how Malaysia (through Anwar) could be a force for democracy and free markets. By the time they left, they often took with them the belief that if only Anwar were in charge in Malaysia, here at last could be a perfect Muslim democracy.

American liberals – amusingly, overwhelmingly Jews – accepted Anwar’s projection at face value. To them, he was their tabula rasa: A Muslim who cared about the environment, about global peace and nuclear disarmament, about social justice – basically, about all of their core beliefs, yet never with any specific detail – Anwar was the noble savage for these men and women who likely believed Malaysia a tropical rainforest where the natives went around naked most of the time.

Those men and women believed they had the perfect Muslim to help democratise the Islamic world; I don’t believe a single one understood that they were, and are, being played for fools. Doug Paal was a part of this operation, whether he knew it or not. He was introduced to Anwar by Paul Wolfowitz, and he brought a long list of credentials Anwar would find useful in all of his operations. To the West, the former CIA man and member of the American National Security Council was a vital endorser of Anwar’s seriousness and credibility. To Malaysians, he was a sign of the seriousness with which the West took Anwar, and his official-sounding NGO added even more legitimacy.

June 24, 1999

PAAL testified before SFRC about APPC. Questioned about donations by ANWAR IBRAHIM and GOVERNMENT MALAYSIA. Denied GOVERNMENT MALAYSIA funding, admitted that ANWAR IBRAHIM funding amounted to significant revenues for APPC. Denied that full amount stated in Malaysian court affidavit was true. Unable to answer questions about 501(c)(3) and so-called “client list” for APPC. PAAL reminded that SFRC subpoena remains in effect and can be recalled. SFRC adjourned and to resume. PAAL likely not to be called again.

But Anwar’s ties to the West – on which he would rely so keenly later – are only one of the many reasons Anwar was building his war chest. Unlike Mahathir, who came of age when a poison pen letter could bring down a sitting Prime Minister, Anwar understood that to thrive and survive in Umno politics by taking the top seat and holding it, he must be perceived as a hero from any angle. He cultivated favourable ties with journalists and politicians abroad to build international support; at home, he made the conquest of all of Malaysia’s journalism outlets his next stop.

Anwar had learned from his Saudi patrons that the key to political control is control over appearance and image. His frequent outbursts of anti-Semitism at home were ignored in the West because he had so completely convinced opinion-makers that he would never engage in such a thing (a useful effort after he accused the United States and Malaysia of being run by a cabal of Jews in 2010). In Malaysia, he needed to lock down the establishment Malaysian press.

The campaign against Ghafar had been brutal, and well financed. The old man, an Umno stalwart of decades and DPM for nearly a decade, was destroyed back in 1993. Anwar’s rise to the top continued, with only Mahathir now standing between him and the pinnacle, and the wreckage he left behind was not inconsiderable.

We were good, and we had sources everywhere, but despite what one may read in cheap fiction or even John Le Carré, we were hardly omniscient. We nevertheless estimated that a total of roughly 58 million pounds had worked its way through dummy corporations, fronts nominally created for Islamic revivalism, and of course, for Anwar proxies as the Finance Minister booted aside the long-serving and faithful Ghafar. (This, of course, is an area where Murad’s estimate of the amount that went to ABIM was so dreadfully low.)

Not that we had ignored him before – Mr Ten Per Cent made it impossible to do business in Malaysia and ignore him – but Anwar Ibrahim was very much on all of our radar screens at that point. In just over a decade he’d gone from hardbitten, eternal Islamist rebel to the ultimate Umno insider, scaling the political ladder at a speed unseen since Malaysia’s independence.

Even Mahathir’s impressive climb was not so rapid, or so improbable.

Tracking the web of connections that made this rocket-like ascent a reality became every intelligence station’s foremost goal. Dimwitted ambassadors and reporters could afford the luxury of illusions. Intelligence services are supposed to be the first – and to hear them tell it – most vital line of defence for their nations. A man who’d called for a universal Caliphate modeled on the 14th Century was extraordinarily close to controlling Malaysia’s booming economy and energy reserves, in a part of the world where violent Islam had never taken root.

I’d opened a private consultancy a few years before, and saw which way the wind was blowing. I began a private project called Operation Next, designed to aid intelligence agencies and private firms as they prepared for the next Prime Minister’s ascension before the end of the decade. I never could have imagined that Anwar would royally foul up the entire operation because of his hubris.

I confess that I have never been a great consumer of local news, relying on my own sources for in-country developments and otherwise sticking to the BBC, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and bits from The Times of London. So it was that the stories of Anwar’s attempt to take control of the New Straits Times Press and TV3 were beneath my radar for another few years yet.

Others, however, were sensitive to the changes, and over time, my collaborators and I developed the back story.

If 1992-1993 could be considered the culmination of Anwar’s drive for the DPM slot, 1993-1994 should be considered the beginning of his next push to be Prime Minister. Not only did he begin building an extraordinary global network of offshore corporations, front companies, proxies, and money handlers, but Anwar also marshalled his political and economic resources to make certain that the English and Bahasa press would bring the public round to seeing him for the saviour he was.

In early 1993, Realmild Sdn Bhd, a private company owned by Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd, in turn controlled by four of Anwar’s cronies, took control of the media conglomerate that owned the major Bahasa dailies, the New Straits Times, the Malay Mail, and TV3. That coup was accomplished entirely with Anwar’s funds and direction, making him the de facto controller of the largest concentration of media power in Malaysia.

This was yet another thing Murad got right and wrong in his statutory declaration – Anwar did indeed use Bank Negara and Hong Leong to take control of those entities. However, that money originated not in a BNM account, but rather in the little known Familienstiftung Jakob Schmidt in Liechtenstein.

Anwar began by placing senior editors in key spots at TV3 and in the print press, determined to micromanage his image to the country. Johan Jaafar, Nazri Abdullah, Yunus Said, others littered throughout the media became his proxies in his covert war for the Prime Minister’s spot. Reporters who failed to provide sufficiently favourable coverage were warned, and then if needed, sacked and blacklisted.

(Amusingly, some of these same men and women would later join the Opposition press, totally unaware that they were writing hagiographies of the man who’d had them terminated.)

The extent of Anwar’s complete control of the media is hard to express to someone who today might view the BBC, CNN, or any of the plethora of media channels broadly available online and off. Google now makes some of the old press clippings available, and there are certainly archives about, but the number of above-the-fold headlines and opening broadcasts that began with ‘Anwar Ibrahim Rescues…’ or ‘Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim Accomplishes…’ or the equivalent is simply remarkable.

Anwar’s control of the media was very close to complete, a situation he would naturally decry and of which he would pretend total ignorance a decade later. But then, Anwar has always had a talent for righteous hypocrisy.

Neutralising Anwar meant neutralising his press operation, something Mahathir finally realised when he finally acknowledged the extent to which he had clutched a dangerous snake to his bosom. Just before Anwar was sacked, the editors of Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian were forced to resign, with the director of operations of TV3 close behind. All three men were, by Anwar’s own admission, his confederates.

But that is once again getting ahead of the story. Before we resume the tale of Anwar’s rise and fall, it will be necessary to journey far away, to distant Turkey, and in Turkey we can understand more about Anwar than his money or his Malaysian power base. Anwar’s Turkish connection is a very significant part of the I-Files. There is a reason he went running to the Turkish embassy in KL some years ago. Anwar, and his ties to the AKP of Turkey, Turkish politicians, their money, and political cooperation is worthy of a whole chapter on its own. The next chapter will be the full and unvarnished story of Anwar’s Turkish connection.


It is my hope that you will forgive my absence these past few weeks, dear reader. I had planned on expanding on the story of Anwar’s finances and wealth accumulation, and how he used the resources of the very people he’d sworn to serve, but events in Malaysia raced ahead of me.

When I saw the reports about Bank Negara and the RM3 billion, I decided to pause, and see what was being released or alleged before continuing with recording these files.

I would like to imagine that I had some role in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s renewed interest in Anwar’s dealings during his time as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, but my self-regard is not that high. Regardless, with all of the scepticism surrounding the story, I wished to allow the increased interest in Murad Khalid’s statutory declaration and the allegations contained therein to die down a touch before I waded back in.

This is precisely because the allegations are substantively correct, but wrong in almost every detail. And the story of Bank Negara is merely a small piece of a much larger puzzle.

The story of how we all – each of us who contributed over the years to the I-Files – put together Anwar’s money trail is a rather long one, and if told in full, would put too many names and too many dangerous secrets in play. Instead, I will provide you with some of that back story, based on documentation and eyewitness accounts, and focus mainly on the money itself as it moved from place to place, growing as it went.

We will follow the money.

Telling the story of Anwar Ibrahim’s money is rather like telling the story of the Pacific Ocean: Where to begin and how to end is a feat in itself. I pray that you will indulge me, as this story once again moves from place to place and time to time. It was once said that Anwar’s money washed across five continents, and I had been sincerely doubtful of such a claim until the I-Files actually coalesced, with documents; and then I understood how very true this statement was.

One must understand that Anwar’s personal fortune, before he became Finance Minister, was a significant increase over what he had every amassed or dreamed of amassing in his ABIM days, but was not nearly enough to fuel what he needed to move ahead in the world.

That all changed with the birth of Mr Ten Per Cent.

I remember the first time, not long before Anwar became Deputy Prime Minister, that we gathered together, the commercial types, the station chiefs, the Yanks, Aussies and Brits, and we spoke of the man who was increasingly important to commercial and government interests in Malaysia. This meeting was also the first time we informally began aggregating and crosschecking our work. We of course held back the occasional uncertain tidbit here and there; but generally, we began working from the same sheet, because we had no choice.

It was 1993. We were all gathered around a large table, the eight of us. Four Brits, two Yanks, two Aussies. We’d all softened a little around the edges from our hellbusting days, just a decade before, even those of us who kept in fighting shape.

But every last man at that table had seen military, intelligence, or commercial service. Our minds were our best weapons, and we were gathered to put those weapons to a common use. We were there to discuss oil prices, unrest in the Middle East and our ventures there, and most importantly, Anwar Ibrahim.

We had eschewed servants for this meeting, swept the room twice over for bugs, and we were using the best (and most expensive) transmission-blocking equipment known to man in order to keep this meeting secret. We took all of these precautions because we were all convinced that Anwar was both brilliant and dangerous, and we needed every advantage we could get.

Roger, the American I mentioned earlier, opened his folder, one of eight identical packets around the table. Photos of Anwar with Mahathir were moved aside for a series of intelligence reports acquired from Singapore, Washington, London, Canberra, and Ottawa. “The first problem,” he began without preamble, “is ‘Mr Ten Per Cent.’” We flipped to the appropriate tab, though I’d already read this section twice over. “Every single major transaction and public listing now requires a ten per cent fee, as it passes through the Finance Minister’s office. No fee, no listing, no contract, no Government approval.” It was all through witness interviews; inside Finance, never a record of the ten per cent. It was all done via friends, cronies, proxies, and outside, rented hands.

“The question before us is this,” he began, holding up a stapled ledger of the fees we’d managed to identify, dozens of pages thick. “Why is Anwar Ibrahim after this much money? He’s already filthy rich.” The total, circled in black felt marker, was in the high eight figures. The man had done well for himself – multiplying the family fortune many times – since ascending to Finance Minister, through what we believed were the use of his hidden accounts at Hong Leong and Bank Negara, but this seemed to be somehow too simple, too crude. Mere accounts? No, there had to be more to it. And there was, as we would soon discover … much, much more.

I kept my counsel, as Roger and I had agreed I would. Stephen, one of the Australians, spoke up. “The Umno General Assembly is in October,” he said, quietly. “He’s looking to go from Finance Minister to DPM, and Ghafar Baba is in the way.” We all nodded.

Roger had clearly rehearsed this part. “How many votes has he lined up?”

Stephen again. “Enough to crush Ghafar,” he said. Then as now, becoming Deputy President of Umno was the sine qua non of being Deputy Prime Minister. “Mahathir is encouraging his ambition, like he needs it,” he laughed a little. “I don’t think poor Ghafar sees it coming. We know Anwar’s already dropped tens of millions of ringgits into this and is actively pouring in more.”


…MFINANCE/AI is part of the “cost of doing business” now. Old stories of UMNO corruption light by contrast. 10% of all listings and contracts are directed to MFINANCE/AI. Receipts YTD estimated at $20M.…

I will turn to the story of the end of Ghafar Baba’s career presently. However, first one must understand where Murad was simply in error – through no fault of his own, as the events at issue were well above his rank. This is because Anwar’s financial holdings were never so simple as ‘straw man’ accounts or “master” accounts or “shadow” accounts and straightforward deposits; that was all that Anwar would have allowed Murad to see or to think.

To completely understand Anwar’s finances, one must understand the network of associates and cronies he developed. For example, Nasaruddin Jalil, Anwar’s former private secretary, worked hand-in-glove with his old patron after Anwar became Finance Minister. As director of Diversified Resources, Bhd, Nasaruddin profited from Anwar’s largesse and connections in everything from minibus servicing in KL to joint ventures with Proton to develop new vehicles.

The latter is especially remarkable, as Diversified took a 51 per cent share in the joint venture, despite no experience with developing automobiles. Anwar, naturally, took his share, invisibly as always, and his network of cronies and their companies enjoyed exclusive supply contracts with the venture.

When the Diversified-Proton joint venture teamed with Citroen to produce a round of Citroens bearing the Proton mark, the joint venture increased Anwar’s funding yet again. Murad’s statutory declaration insists that Anwar simply ordered a disbursement of RM10 million to Nasaruddin. If that had been the case, Malaysia would be a much richer country today.

As another example, Abdul Rahim Ghouse, one of the more pivotal of Anwar’s henchmen, bears particular scrutiny not only for his well-known ties to Anwar, but the manner in which he served as a gateway to so many others.

Rahim was well-known when Anwar was sacked, and later led the Free Anwar campaign from Perth, to which he fled immediately on Anwar’s arrest. That flight helped solidify much of the intelligence we had on the men and their ties, as so few of Anwar’s cronies actually left the country.

Rahim, together with Wan Hasni Wan Sulaiman, founded Abrar, a company at the centre of so much of Anwar’s business dealings; the other founder was Yassin Qadi, a Saudi businessman who would become famous in the early part of the millennium as one of al Qaeda’s funders, a terrorist financier identified as such by both the United States and the United Nations. Abrar was one of Anwar’s funding arms, and was, according to American and other intelligence agencies, used to hide and funnel assets to Hamas, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other groups reliant on Wahhabi funding and support.

Qadi was but part of the web of Wahhabi financiers, like Sheikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel (whom I mentioned in the previous chapter), who financed and sponsored young radicals such as Anwar and others in Turkey and Indonesia. Saleh Kamel then enjoyed lucrative contracts and the opportunity to build Wahhabi teachings and influence into developing Muslim states.

Qadi’s chalet in Switzerland was raided during the hunt for al Qaeda, and there authorities found phone records for only a handful of people – Anwar, Wan Azizah, Hassan Marican, a handful of Petronas executives, and various up-and-coming Turkish politicians. Qadi would also rely on Turkey and future Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other founders of the Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, for protection and access – but Anwar’s extensive ties to Turkey are yet another story, and for the next chapter.

Wan Hasni, though a multimillionaire from his support for and ties to Anwar, would fall when Anwar was dismissed in 1998; until then, he provided not merely a veneer of academic legitimacy, but also another source of funds for Anwar’s various off-the-books enterprises.

Rahim took part in and benefited from Anwar’s largesse. From his student days in the US in the 1980s, he integrated himself into Anwar’s Malaysian Islamic Study Group, one of several radical Muslim Brotherhood/money-laundering fronts Anwar had made his own, and eventually rose high in Anwar’s councils. Rahim himself and his children have benefited from the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Anwar’s foremost charity/financing front; Rahim’s children have received more than $200,000 from the IIIT.

Some years later, an Australian sat down in an office in a Singapore office tower so well airconditioned one might have thought it winter in Glasgow outside. On the other side of the conference table were two men, one from Hong Kong, one from Malaysia. The latter was a former Bank Negara officer.

The Australian had been sent by a group of men in Malaysia to peel apart the layers, to dig beyond the legend and the many stories of the fallen Deputy Prime Minister, to understand why and how he had fallen, and what had happened to the wealth they were certain he’d gathered before his sudden fall. Just days before, another BNM officer, Abdul Murad Khalid, had given a sworn statement in which he claimed that the fallen Umno man had controlled billions of ringgits in the bank through proxies and straw men.

That confirmation of their long-held suspicions sent the ex-pats – my close associates who were then formally compiling the I-Files – looking for the real answers.

The Malay turned to the Chinese fellow, who nodded. The bank officer straightened his tie, took a sip of water, and remembering what had been promised on both sides, took a deep breath before speaking.

“Anwar Ibrahim’s money has washed across five continents, and is moving even as we speak,” he began.

Once a deal was done, once the fees were skimmed, once the cash was available, Anwar very rarely kept those funds immediately in Malaysia. He preferred them to flow offshore, via front companies, via obscure and less obscure banks, and always via others, never in his own name.

What he kept in Malaysia tended to be only what he needed on a daily basis. Call it petty cash. Call it operational funds.

That is not to say he did not use Bank Negara for his money; rather, it is to say he used it to move his money, rather than to hold it. Without Bank Negara to turn a blind eye, to allow and clear the massive capital flows he needed, Anwar’s financial operations in Malaysia and beyond would have come to a grinding halt.

This was not a story of “master” accounts or “shadow” accounts as has been written recently in the Malaysian media. This was a story – in part – of shadowy, but very senior Bank Negara officers who helped Anwar to make sure that huge capital flows were not subjected to any scrutiny, so that the money was allowed to move in and out of the country.

Anwar relied on a complex web of Malaysian and foreign accountants, financial advisers, tax lawyers, brokers, and other financial professionals to not only comply with, but to cleverly exploit loopholes in and shelter, a sprawling financial empire. He ran his operations from Malaysia, but his money rarely stayed for long in one place. Some of those lawyers and accountants also moved around, and switched sides, and (in exchange for the appropriate gratuity) they brought to our little team of expats, one at a time, some of the paper trail.

There were five primary holding centres for the money, through which Anwar’s web of confidantes and assistants constantly shifted the mass of his funds, chasing alpha (and beta), and using the proliferation of financial tools that became available in the 1990s to massively expand the resources Anwar would eventually need.

The story begins, as with so much else, with IIIT. Nominally a not-for-profit formed in the United States to broaden Islam’s outreach to the world, and actually operating to advance its Saudi funders’ goals, it was frequently utilised as Anwar’s personal vehicle. IIIT served a number of functions, including as an influence driver and a financial vehicle.

Despite FBI raids and lurking suspicions of terrorist involvement, nothing ever stuck, and IIIT meanwhile procured Anwar access to influential policymakers in the US Government and academia – associates of Paul Wolfowitz and other so-called neoconservatives, men who aspirationally seek democracy across the globe, even where it already exists.

IIIT eventually provided a means of direct access for Anwar, Qadi, Rahim, and others in Anwar’s personal circle to influential Washingtonians both inside and outside of government. Members of then-President Bush’s, then Clinton’s, then the younger Bush’s inner circle were treated to conferences, honoraria, and paid junkets to exotic locales to reinforce IIIT’s nominal message of moderate Islam – and to develop close ties to Anwar and his cronies. The names constitute a veritable who’s who in Washington over the years from both parties – Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Grover Norquist, Bill Cohen, Richard Perle, Madeleine Albright, Donna Shalala, William Perry, Colin Powell, Michael Chertoff, Richard Holbrooke – and those same men and women would rally to Anwar’s defense when he was tried and imprisoned for corruption and sodomy. They all received Anwar’s friendship and, in some cases, largesse.

Cohen as Secretary of Defense; Gore as Vice President; Holbrooke as State Department honcho; and Wolfowitz as Mr Pentagon and then World Bank president, and even later, in disgrace, became Anwar’s staunchest defenders.

Little did they know.

Those same men and women would provide reciprocal legitimacy for Anwar. Norquist, for example, became one of Anwar’s foremost enablers, turning his tax-cutting bona fides into a lever to propel Anwar into close confidences with Republican leaders. Norquist, who married a Muslim, would direct charitable giving to and with IIIT, bolstering Anwar’s causes and his own standing.

Those ties, in turn, opened doors for Anwar into American business, consulting, speaking, and advising on interactions with Islamic governments and finance. Anwar is able to play the ‘good Muslim’ to Americans with little practical experience in the Islamic world, guiding them to favourable investment opportunities – companies and firms with ties to Anwar.

But the real story of IIIT is its role as the wellspring of Anwar’s financial network.

From: Fri. April 18 14:02:34 1997
Received: from waco1 []
by [] ID ticklemedead Fri. April 18 14:02:35 1997
Subject: Welcome to Paradise KL Style
Date: Fri. April 18 14:02:34 1997

… Intl Institute Islamic Thought ties to House of Saud secondary to moneylaundering. SecDef believes Saud financing BLOWBACK through international fronts dedicated to Islamic engagement – believes Holy Land Foundation and Center for American Islamic Relations direct launderers. FBI-INT believes IIIT is primary funding conduit, but SECDEF has warned off and FBIDIRECT agrees …

IIIT began taking in Saudi funds for Anwar more or less from its inception, but it was only when Anwar became Finance Minister that its capital operations skyrocketed – with funds from Abrar and from Anwar’s own direct contributions. Some of the ten per cent Anwar siphoned from every public listing and every Government contract flowed indirectly to IIIT and to a handful of private accounts it controlled.

Murad’s assertion that Anwar directed RM2 million to IIIT is low by orders of magnitude; it appears that he confused amounts sent to ABIM (which he gives as RM5 million) with the amounts directed to IIIT. By the time Anwar was sacked, IIIT is said to have controlled or owned, always indirectly, roughly US$350 million in securities, real estate holdings, and liquid assets. Before they flowed into designated banking centres, they passed through an amazing network of companies and banks.

This was the way the Anwar money machine functioned, always indirectly, always via a variety of entities, from the British Virgin Islands to the Seychelles, from Singapore to Liechtenstein, and beyond.

Funds were poured from central holding stations, always offshore, in the form of seed capital, SWIFT transfer, and financial investments, mainly to four other banking centres: Islamabad, Geneva, Tel Aviv, and Hong Kong, which over time became self-sustaining. From there, each banking centre moved multi-denominated currency into opaque management funds, usually but not always run by Al Baraka, Hong Leong, Bank Al-Taqwa (a specialised Wahhabi institution that funds terrorism in the Middle East), and other more obscure institutions such as the Panama affiliate of PKB Bank of Pakistan, which was run by the veterans of Pakistan’s notorious BCCI before it shut down.

That money, when it was allowed to flow back into Malaysia as dividend income for nominees or as investment capital for front companies, or occasionally, as cash, would be vital for Anwar’s political projects – unseating Ghafar, attempting to topple Mahathir, even, in 2008, attempting to purchase Dewan Rakyat MPs from Sabah and Sarawak before the bungled September 16 promise came crashing down.

When it came time for Anwar to draw on enormous sums – such as when he was crushing Ghafar, and making his move on Mahathir – there was “a great big sucking sound,” in the words of one of the compilers of the I-Files, a Yank who had served two tours of duty in KL, as money was drawn from across the globe, through a very particular bank – one we all thought was dead and buried.

“Israel Discount Bank,” the Malay said after a long pause. It was the third day of this lengthy debrief meeting, and by now everyone was on a less tense and more friendly basis. Drinks had been had, meals shared, and the first part of the Aussie’s consideration delivered as promised.

“Anwar’s hatred of Jews never precluded making money off of them, and he’s long supported finance in Israel as a means to an end. IDB was the perfect location for funds – Mahathir would never look there, and with his radical leanings, no one would imagine Anwar would keep a penny there. They had the expertise, the discretion, and the international connections Anwar needed. And no one could ever trace any of the funds back to Anwar, because some of the companies used in transfers were regular, even respectable, and none owned by Anwar. So, no — no fingerprints at all. IDB could honestly say it knew nothing. As always, there was plausible deniability for both Israel Discount Bank and for Anwar.”

The Malay paused to catch his breath before speaking again. “The masterstroke,” he said, “Was keeping that wire line open from IDB to Pakistan.”

The trail of money from Tel Aviv led to a run-down back alley in a Lahore slum. The fellow who went to investigate this part was an American with combat experience in three theatres, a former Navy Seal who spoke Arabic and Urdu as smoothly as he spoke English, and whose numerous knife scars around his liver were a testament to his longevity. His hand-selected team were men of similar disposition, including a Gurkha. Their stories alone would make an engrossing read, but for their sakes, I leave their story to their own telling.

In that back alley was a permanently-ajar door with a single man, armed with a 9mm pistol and a brutal combat knife, permanently stationed before it. By providing dearly-obtained pass-phrases and a bulging briefcase filled with American dollars, the men were able to pass through the door and the balmy corridor beyond.

Inside was one of the most sophisticated banking centres in the world. Clocks set to every time zone on Earth, computers sporting the latest high-end processors, T1 lines, and posh offices that all pointed in toward a single, teak table at which some of the most important financial decisions in the world were made on a daily basis.

This was the hidden bunker for a group of veteran Pakistani, British, and Egyptian bankers who had for a long time danced in the dark, enjoying macabre relations with Langley in Peshawar. They were men who had financed extremists, kept narco-money for the druglords of Colombia, and whose scandal, known as the BCCI affair, ultimately brought the City of London near to to its knees in 1991.

And now they were reborn, at the service of the highest bidder, including a certain up-and-coming politician from Malaysia …


One might, in reading what I’ve shared so far, assume that the ex-pat community in Malaysia in the 1980s, commercial and intelligence service, were all Anwar obsessives; or at least, that those of us who contributed to the “I” Files were. This is hardly so. I, for example, was busy falling in love with my Malaysian secretary, working up the courage to ask her out, marrying her, and then beginning a family with her. In between, I worked hundreds of matters, the overwhelming majority of which had nothing or little to do with Anwar, and almost all of which revolved around ending the Soviets’ murderous regime once and for all.

Aside from Anwar’s continued ideological war on the Chinese and Christians – he had banned the singing of Christmas carols at shopping malls and public places, and rearranged the school holidays so Christmas did not fall during the long vacation period – his day-to-day doings did not significantly register for most of us.

Most of us had similar stories. The thing about Anwar Ibrahim, you must see, is that he was very different from almost everyone but Mahathir, in that he rapidly began to occupy the centre stage, and not long after he ascended to the post of Education Minister, one could not run any sort of intelligence operation in KL without running into him, his subordinates, his influence, or his financial connections.

We of course from time to time made him our focus, but usually, he simply appeared again and again on our radar. It was especially in his financial connections that he kept intruding into our daily lives, because as one soon discovered, Anwar had his fingers everywhere, directly or indirectly. There were already the Saudi ties, of course, and the House of Saud is composed of terribly shrewd investors; they choose their assets carefully, and they always take the long position.

But one did not then ascend the Umno ranks without money, and more than a few ringgits at that. Whatever his other faults, Anwar has always been a keen student of power, and he understood early the need to develop not only his own funding, but an array of financial backers who would help him rise in the ranks.

His financial empire – which has held him in good stead for decades, through good times and bad – began with the Saudis, but continued with his marriage. It continues to this day, and is how he is able to control his party’s internal elections, and how he always seems to end up in the very best hotels when he travels.

It is here that I must beg your indulgence, dear reader. To understand Anwar’s financial empire – how he built it and how he maintains it – will require that we step outside of the chronological narrative I have largely favoured to date. Nevertheless, it is a story worth telling, especially in light of Anwar’s decisions in the 1990s and after his release from prison to style himself one of the common men of Malaysia – at least in his dealings with ordinary Malaysians and Western reporters.

My understanding of the matter began as I was hunting the Communists’’ last vestiges, not long before the coup that overthrew Gorbachev and ended with the complete dissolution of the Soviet Union.

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By 1986, I had pretty well run to ground all of the Soviets’ fronts in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. The Soviets now seem a distant memory even to those of us who spent our first adult decades hounding them and their brutal ideology to the ends of the Earth, but they were then still a true danger in Malaysia. The Communist assault on the Bukit Kepong police station in 1950 was a mere precursor to their continued infiltration of the country over the coming decades, culminating in members in the highest levels of government; Malaysia’s royal police would battle the Communist threat for decades before they had been completely eradicated.

Indeed, Siddiq Ghouse, Mahathir’s political secretary, was arrested as a KGB spy a mere three days before Mahathir was sworn in. Our file materials were vague on the veracity of that claim, but I had more dangerous quarry to hunt and so did not spend time fleshing out that allegation.

It was thus that my superior wanted the commercial influence of that murderous lot eradicated from Malaysia once and for all. This was both vital and relatively easy. Their reputation for brutality was never exaggerated, their reputation for efficiency only slightly exaggerated, their reputation for secrecy a joke to those of us who took our tradecraft seriously. I had more than my share of time on my hands, and so despite explicit instructions to the contrary, I dabbled in watching the new Education Minister work on Malaysia. In fact I did more than dabble. I worked with some friends from The Company and we worked the files extensively. Anwar Ibrahim was by now more or less completely an Umno man in every way but one: His core. Outwardly, he was a loyal party man whose allegiance to Mahathir Mohamad was unquestioned. But as Education Minister, he finally had the chance to make good on his promises to his ABIM followers and to his Saudi friends to bring a purer form of Islam into the Government – and to Malaysia’s youth, and across Malaysian society. Where Mahathir saw the Malays as needing protection, Anwar saw them as needing perfection.

And he would give it, and he would also make the Chinese and Indians suffer for it.

1986 was also the year Mahathir ruthlessly crushed PAS electorally. To most of us watching from the outside, this was the signal moment when Malaysia’s more tolerant and moderate brand of Islam finally won out over the conservatives and radicals, those who would employ what were by then the obviously more extreme forms of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia and Iran, forms that PAS backed and Mahathir – and most Malaysians – rejected.

Only later would this section of the I-Files come into my hand, and only then would I understand how wrong I’d been.

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I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at the behest of my immediate superior, who was cavorting in Bali whilst pretending to be gathering some form of commercial counter-intelligence on the Soviets.

I’m reminded, by my young Malaysian subordinates, how long ago this really was. More than the somewhat depressing change in my features over time, what would really stand out to one of my attachés transported back to that time would be how truly different the country was then, how many men who have passed into legend or would make themselves legend now were struggling to push, pull, and drive Malaysia to a destiny even they could not fully see.

Anwar Ibrahim, of course, was one of these, and his story continues here. But through the mists of time it is important to remember his patron not as Tun Mahathir, as the young of today call him and think of him – the larger than life figure whose time as Prime Minister still shapes Malaysia today – but rather the outwardly self-assured man working desperately to consolidate his power base in Umno, to pull the reactionaries and progressives into something like a working harmony in a country still finding its identity in the world. Before he was a legend, he was an unlikely Prime Minister, threatened by the men he’d defeated to reach that spot, and by PAS and a world already hostile to him outside his country.

It is this time, just before Anwar’s sudden entry into my world, that my story in Malaysia begins.

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