1MDB’s Arul Kanda considering a move to politics?

1MDB chief Arul Kanda Kandasamy was executive vice-president and head of investment banking at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank before being brought in to turn around 1MDB in 2015. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: 1MDB president and CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is a man on a mission: to explain to voters what 1MDB is doing and rebut allegations against the state investment arm.

So far, he has addressed close to 30,000 people in more than 25 locations in the country, according to a report by Channel NewsAsia (CNA). The events are organised by NGOs, including pro-government bodies, in the run-up to the 14th general election (GE14).

Arul told CNA he was countering the opposition’s allegations “with facts” out of a responsibility to his company’s shareholders – the government – and not because of any political calling.

But he hinted to CNA that this could change given the right opportunity. He was quoted as saying: “There’s a few more days to nomination day, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see… anything can happen between now and then.

“This is self-promotion here, but I feel I have certain skills: restructuring, an investment background and my ability to interact with people… Ultimately it’s up to the government of the day to decide if they feel that is something suitable for a role beyond the corporate world or a role in government.”

The report noted that Arul was known for having a gift for communication, or “charm”, plus a background in law and investment banking, and years of experience in the corporate world.

Before being brought in to turn around a troubled 1MDB in 2015, he was executive vice-president and head of investment banking at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

“People say you can’t work in a sewer without some of that stink rubbing off on you. I’ve obviously covered myself in rubber overalls and sprayed myself in the nicest perfume.

“But the reality is, there is some negativity associated with my taking on the role. But fortunately, people who are objective about it, those who know me, my friends, family, professional colleagues – they realise Arul is doing a difficult job, and he’s doing a job to fix the company,” he was quoted as saying.

Arul also told CNA that if no one had stepped in at the time, “you can only imagine the consequences at 1MDB”, adding: “For example, the company would probably be in default, then there could be knock-on consequences onto the government and politics and so on.”

Arul said most of the problems he had been tasked to fix – including a high-profile dispute with Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company – had been resolved.

Nevertheless, he’s been asked to stay on longer to see to a handover of his responsibilities, activating the optional one year extension to his three-year contract. The report said an announcement might be made by shareholders on the details of that extension.

On the fact that despite investigations linked to 1MDB in at least six nations and the Public Accounts Committee recommending action be taken in 2016, no action has been taken within Malaysia, Arul said this was because there was no basis to prosecute the company.

He said based on his observations, 1MDB was not a big concern to voters on the ground despite the splashy headlines.

“It is actually quite far down in the hierarchy of things that are important to people, with cost of living, graduate unemployment, etc, factoring in higher. Having said that, it is an issue… and it’s an issue being used by the opposition,” he was quoted as saying.

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