Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal inspires anti-graft board game
In ‘Kleptopoly’, which was created by a corruption watchdog, the richest but least corrupt player is the winner
A Malaysian board game based on “Monopoly” is taking aim at the massive 1MDB scandal before elections, featuring a motley crew of figures central to the controversy and items allegedly bought with looted money.
Designed by an anti-graft watchdog, “Kleptopoly” sees players move tokens round a board and pick up high-end properties, with the richest – but least corrupt – player declared the winner at the end.
The US Department of Justice alleges that US$4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB, which was founded by Prime Minister Najib Razak, by officials at the state fund and their associates in a campaign of fraud and money-laundering.
Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
The scandal is in sharp focus as Malaysians get ready for a general election on May 9, with Najib facing a tough fight to extend his ruling coalition’s six decades in power.
“We hope that people do play the game, and talk about these issues ahead of the upcoming elections,” said Ho Yi Jian, from the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, which produced “Kleptopoly”.
The traditional tokens used in Monopoly are replaced with cartoonlike characters which resemble figures linked to the 1MDB scandal.
There is a man with a briefcase stuffed full of money called “Malaysian Official 1” – a figure referred to in lawsuits by the US Department of Justice as having allegedly received large sums of 1MDB money.
A Malaysian minister has confirmed that official was Najib.
Then there is “Mr Klepto”, a chubby man wielding a large wad of cash who resembles jet-setting Malaysian financier Jho Low, an unofficial adviser to 1MDB who has been at the centre of the scandal. He denies any wrongdoing.
Up for grabs in the game are properties in New York and Los Angeles which the US claims were bought with money looted from 1MDB.
There is also the luxury yacht Equanimity, which the justice department says was bought by Low with 1MDB cash. The yacht was seized off the Indonesian island of Bali in February but a court last week ordered authorities to release it, citing missteps by police.
Despite its name, Ho said Kleptopoly does not encourage players to act like kleptocrats but rather to be corruption-free – if there is evidence of graft, you get sent to jail.
“It’s OK to be rich. You’ve just got to do it in a clean way,” Ho said.