KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — As the public scrutiny on state investment fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) extends to its new chief executive, Arul Kanda Kandasamy has rubbished claims his tenure at a prominent Middle Eastern bank ties him to flamboyant tycoon Jho Low, telling critics to judge his performance on merit.
Arul Kanda said the allegations were presumptions based on his background working in the investment arm of a United Arab Emirates’ bank in Abu Dhabi, the financial backers whom are said to be very close to the Penang-born Low who achieved fortune and fame through this circle.
“No.The insinuation appears to be that simply because I have worked in Abu Dhabi, I am connected to certain individuals. I believe that is unfair,” the 38-year-old former investment banker told Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.
Arul Kanda added that all his achievement as a banker was based on merits and not through links with certain individuals as claimed by some news reports.
The 1MDB chief pointed out that he had to work hard to climb up the ranks.
“My CV should speak for itself. I’ve been a professional all my life, and worked my way up from a junior level position at the start of my career to becoming Head of Investment Banking at one of the Middle East’s largest financial institutions,” he said.
Last August business paper Focus Malaysia ran a special report on 1MDB, showing how it was linked to Abu Dhabi in an intricate network of firms, directorships and partnerships with Low at its centre.
In a front-page story on the enigmatic Low, the business weekly sought to chart the link between 1MDB and Jynwel Capital Ltd, the flagship of the mogul believed to be behind South Korean pop sensation Psy’s appearance at the Barisan Nasional (BN) Chinese New Year open house in Penang in 2013.
The report showed Low’s alleged link with an Abu Dhabi-based company, Muabadala Development Corp, which played a part in the set-up of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), which was subsequently rebranded as 1MDB in September 2009, to expand its operations to the federal level.
Low’s Jynwel Capital Ltd was said to have done business with Muabadala, the investment arm of the government of Abu Dhabi said to have total assets valued at US$55 billion (RM181 billion), as of 2012.
The links prompted allegations that Low has influence over 1MDB’s direction, which included the controversial RM8 billion investment in the Cayman Islands.
But Arul Kanda dismissed the allegations as untrue.
“Unless individuals who make these claims, can back up these claims with even a shred of evidence, I would have to request them to refrain from making such speculative and damaging statements,” he
Observers said the negative attention received by 1MDB, and the implication on Najib who happens to sit on the company’s advisory board, prompted the investment arm to replace its then-CEO Hazem Abd Rahman with Arul Kanda.
And since taking up office three weeks ago, Arul has vigorously engaged with the media in a public relations blitz aimed at clearing 1MDB’s name.
The 1MDB CEO has also offered to engage its critics in a dialogue to clarify the allegations made against the state investor.
* A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Datuk Shahrol Halmi preceded Arul Kanda Kandasamy at 1MDB. The report has since been corrected.