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20 MAR 2018 1MDB

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EXPOSE! – Petronas Was


Pitched As A Front For A BN
Covert Campaign By
Cambridge Analytica/SCL For
The Sarawak Election
20 MAR 2018

A s the scandal over the covert political consultancy and election


agency Cambridge Analytica, also known as SCL (Strategic
Communications Laboratories Ltd) engulfs clients across the
globe, the Malaysian BN Government has issued a total denial that it ever
engaged with the company:

“Contrary to media reports, neither Cambridge Analytica nor


its parent company SCL Group has ever – now or in the past –
been contracted, employed or paid in any way by Barisan
Nasional, the Prime Minister’s Office or any part of the
Government of Malaysia.
“However, the SCL Group country representative today
confirmed to the Government that Cambridge Analytica’s
advice on the 2013 general election was provided personally to
(Datuk Seri) Mukhriz Mahathir, PPBM deputy president.
“The SCL representative also confirmed that he reported

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EXPOSE! – Petronas Was Pitched As A Front For A BN Covert Campaign By Cambridge Analytica/SCL For The Sarawak Election | Sarawak Report 22/03/2018 07:17

directly to Mukhriz Mahathir, not Barisan or the Government,”


[The Star]

The statement has been interpreted as an


attempt to distance BN fron SCL/Cambridge
Analytica, whilst tarnishing the opposition
leader Dr Mahathir by saying his son did
employ the company.

Indeed, a former media advisor to Mukhriz


Mahathir, who is now the SCL representative
in KL, has waded in to support the
SCL’s Malaysia boss, Azrin Zizal,
used to work with Mukhriz
accusations. The company has boasted that it
assisted with messaging for BN during the
Kedah state election, something Mukhriz
denies knowledge of.

On the other hand, Sarawak Report has viewed considerable evidence,


which shows that SCL entered extensive negotiations to devise an image
boosting campaign for the BN government in Sarawak in the run-up to the
last state election. The $2 million (RM10) project was to be funded by
Petronas and was designed to covertly identify and influence target voters
into supporting BN and rejecting PKR.

The campaign is in keeping with the company’s separate boasts, recorded


by Channel 4 News, of having performed secretive operations in Malaysia
to sway elections.

Cambridge Analytica/ SCL is active in Malaysia with an office in KL. So, what is it doing there?

BN and Prime Minister Najib Razak, furthermore, has close ties with a key
political player linked to the company, which is now at the centre of a
worldwide row over its dirty tactics and secretive methods of pursuasion.
British peer Lord Marland is one of the group of private shareholders, who
are all closely linked to the right wing of the Conservative party.

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SCL’s ‘Petronas’ Pitch In Sarawak Focused On
Votes For BN

Conflation of interests? – how SCL spelt out their covert approach to boosting BN via the proposed Petronas contract

Sarawak Report has studied the extensive documentation, including a


series of pitches made to Petronas in 2014, detailing a $2 million project
that was plainly directed at ensuring voters turned out for BN at the key up-
coming Sarawak election.

The material not only reveals a worrying political bias on the part of
Malaysia’s supposedly independent state petroleum company, effectively
willing to offer financial support to BN’s election campaign, but it
also provides disturbing evidence of a commercial background to blatant
political advocacy that has been provided on behalf Prime Minister Najib
Razak by prominent political figures in Britain since the outbreak of the
scandal over 1MDB.

Lord Marland is generally recognised as Najib’s cheerleader in Whitehall


and has been behind several image boosting, quasi-official events designed
to bolster the disgraced Malaysian leader.

‘We Have Done It In Mexico, We Have Done It


In Malaysia’
Earlier this week an undercover recording released by the UK’s Channel 4
News revealed SCL Director and Cambridge Analytica CEO, Alexander Nix
boasting about his company’s dirty tactics, including entrapments by call
girls and video’d ‘corruption stings’.

He and SCL’s political head, Paul Turnbull (ex-Bell Pottinger manager from
South East Asia) also bragged they could secretly influence people’s
emotional responses by using big data, now revealed as having been stolen
from Facebook. During the recording Turnbull stated that SCL had
employed these techniques in “Mexico and Malaysia”.
Petronas Was Pitched As A Front For A BN Covert Campaign By Cambridge Analytica/SCL For The Sarawak Election | Sarawak Report 22/03/2018 07

Paul Turnbull of Cambridge Analytica caught on camera

Alexander Nix has now been sacked and Britain’s Information


Commissioner has applied to the courts for a warrant to search the
company’s London Offices. It has left questions and accusations flying
about which campaigns in Malaysia they were referring to.

The poster campaign in Kedah may be the answer provided by the


Malaysian Government, however the thinly disguised proposal to Petronas
seen by Sarawak Report was clearly an attempt to support BN at the state
election in 2016 and smacks throughout of the covert operations boasted of
by the SCL bosses, who claimed they often conduct campaigns under the
guise of cover operations:

“Often if we are working we can set up fake IDs and websites –


we can go is as students doing research projects .. we can be
tourists, so many options. I’ve had lots of experience in this. We
just used a separate organisation to do a very successful
operation in an Eastern European country. No one knew they
were there they just drift, they were just ghosted in, did the
work, ghosted out” [Alexander Nix to Ch4 News]
s Was Pitched As A Front For A BN Covert Campaign By Cambridge Analytica/SCL For The Sarawak Election | Sarawak Report 22/03/2018 07:17

Dual purpose contract?

According to the briefings provided to Petronas, the SCL campaign in


Sarawak and Sabah was designed to gain information about people and
their opinions without their knowledge and understanding, in order to
identify voters who could be pursuaded to vote BN through the use of
sophisticated psychological messaging. How this was of use to Petronas was
inadequately explained:

What was Petronas’s purpose in this?

Sarawak Report has obtained several documents, including a detailed


proposal provided to Petronas in 2014, which clearly indicate that the state
oil company was to be charged over $2 million (RM8 million) to undertake
the secret operation. Techniques discussed included the targeting of key
local opinion formers in swing constituencies in both Sarawak and Sabah to
get them to encourage their supporters in favour of the ruling BN coalition.
US$2 million dollar bill to Petronas

The interests of Petronas are conflated with those of BN throughout the


wording of the 85 page proposal, but again the reason for this is clearly
contrived, except that the opposition parties had been campaigning for a
greater royalty to be paid to the local states, which is opposed by BN.
s Was Pitched As A Front For A BN Covert Campaign By Cambridge Analytica/SCL For The Sarawak Election | Sarawak Report 22/03/2018 07:17

Who benefits – Petronas or BN?

The SCL campaign to target voters in Sarawak was scheduled to at the start
of 2015, according to the documents, showing a clear timing with the key
Sarawak election in mind.

Prediction for what? Cambridge Analytica/ SLC admitted it operates behind covert fronts, so was Petronas being used as a fro
to pay for BN’s election antics in Sarawak?

It is clear that although this campaign was financed by public money, it was
plainly intended to influence voting patterns in favour of the ruling party.
In line with SCL’s boast that it acts behind the scenes, it would appear that
in this case Petronas was to provide the front and foot the bill:

Changing opions… in favour of Petronas?

High Tech Psychology – Innoculating Voters


Against The Opposition?
SCL’s prospectus for the Malaysia took place before the company had
completed its harvest of Facebook ‘big data’, which was primarily targeted
at the US Presidential election of 2016. Yet the company already boasted of
unique, cutting edge, ‘scientific’ election influencing techniques, which SCL
claimed had been developed by psychologists working at its “Behavioural
Laboratory” in London.

These techniques, according to the prospectus, could enable the company to


“innoculate” voters against proposals put forward by the opposition parties
– much in the way that vaccinations innoculate a population against a
virus.
Cowboy boasts or genuine ‘innoculation techniques’ against the opposition?

The pitch makes clear that the plan was to perform this “innoculation”
secretly, without communities’ knowledge or consent, using information
gathered about them at a micro, individual level, using data and surveys
provided largely through Malaysian official sources.

How will the ‘key influencers’ be influenced… and to what end?

How SCL planned to influence these opinion formers once they had been
identified is not specified in the documentation, beyond vague references to
advanced behavioural analysis based on cultural ties and emotional
leanings. Traditionally, BN has identified and paid such people
handsomely.

One method for achieving ‘innoculation’ against the opposition’s ideas was
described using the analogy of a vaccination. SCL would plant a weak and
easily disproved version of the opposition’s policies (for example an even
bigger oil royalty demand) in order to be able to ridicule and criticise it so
as to turn people’s minds against the idea in advance of the opposition
campaigners actually proposing it.
s Was Pitched As A Front For A BN Covert Campaign By Cambridge Analytica/SCL For The Sarawak Election | Sarawak Report 22/03/2018 07:17

Access to Privileged and Sensitive


Information?
A further major concern is the assumption displayed by SCL that they
would have the full apparatus of state information and also Petronas’s
facilities at their disposal. This included access to Special Branch
information about their target groups, as well as census, ID card and other
sensitive government data.

Barisan Nasional and SB information?

Petronas was moreover instructed to provide full financial support to a


plainly expensive parallel operation anctipated by the company, which was
to target the wider Malaysian media in order to cultivate journalists into
providing friendly coverage. These blandishments were to be paid for by the
oil company.

SCL also offered a full ‘online facility’ providing blogging services in favour
of its combined clients – Petronas, the Government and BN.

Bragging Cowboys?
The extent to which this sometimes somewhat fanciful campaign pitch was
actually effective in altering voting patterns in communities, which have for
decades been under the thumb of BN for far more tranditional reasons
(payment of headmen, bribes, threats) is of course questionable.
Objective to improve perceptions of Government i.e. BN

Moreover, the cutting edge information gathering techniques boasted of by


SCL seem divorced from the reality of the situation on the ground in
Borneo, where there is little internet availability.

Indeed, Sarawak Report believes that the bulk of the proposal reeks of the
company’s long-established ‘cowboy’ reputation elsewhere. For example, in
2000 SCL and its group CEO and founder Nigel Oakes, were exposed and
drummed out of a similar election campaign in Indonesia, where they were
hired by the then President, who was losing the campaign.

Once again the SCL campaign was covert, with the company posing as an
independent journalism institute, whilst attempting to promote the ruling
party. The report by the Asian Wall Street Journal at the time indicated
that the heavily funded campaign was ineffective in achieving its targets
and seemed more designed towards impressing its desperate clients than
genuinely affecting voters. The President lost.

However, SCL takes direct credit for the success of the 2013 BN state
election campaign in Kedah in its pitch to ‘Petronas’ the following year:

“[Jan-May 2013] Malaysia SCL Elections supported Barisan


National in Kedah State with a Targeted messaging campaign
highlighting their school improvements since 2008. BN won
Kedah back from Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th General Election
and walked away from a successful campaign with wins in 21
out of 36 state seats and 10 out of 15 parliamentary seats in the
state”
SCL Poster which the company boasts won the election in 2008

A question Malaysians will be asking is whether these local election pitches


have acted as fore-runners to a bigger contract with the looming General
Election, despite the denials of the Malaysian Government, whose track
record in telling the truth has been deeply flawed under Najib Razak. If
not, what is SCL’s KL office employed in doing?

Currying Favour And Conflicts of Interest?


Given the connections linked to SCL Sarawak Report believes there is an
entirely separate concern over the hiring of SCL with Malaysia’s public
money, which is that the objective could be construed as currying favour
with the company’s clique of politically connected shareholders and
directors.

Influence buying using Malaysia’s public money has been a signature


activity of Najib’s Government over recent months as the Prime Minister
has sought to mitigate the effects of his exposure as a major kleptocrat over
1MDB. Sarawak Report has exposed how the Malaysian Prime Minister has
attempted to pass multi million dollar contracts to lobbyists in the United
States, such as Obama’s fundraiser, Frank White (awarded a 1MDB solar
power contract) and more recently Trump’s fundraiser, Elliot Broidy
(awarded an ‘intelligence gathering contract’)?

One of the shareholders of SCL, Lord Jonathan Marland, has certainly


played the role of a key advocate of Najib Razak with the current
Conservative government for which he was previously a Minister and then
Trade Envoy. His fellow shareholders at SCL are also all politically active
and well connected to the right wing of the Conservative Party.

Marland has kept an ongoing close relationship with the BN Government of


Malaysia, despite the 1MDB scandal. He has defended Najib Razak as
“innocent until proven guilty” over 1MDB, despite evidence produced by the
US Department showing how a billion dollars from the development fund
went into Najib’s personal bank account in KL.

Najib and Marland (right) have worked closely on the Battersea Power Station
development project that is now sky-rocketting in price as well as other projects such
as this

The Commonwealth Investment and


Enterprise Council
In July 2014, just before the issue of SCL’s Petronas pitch, Lord Marland
resigned as then Prime Minister David Cameron’s Trade Envoy and set up a
limited company confusingly named the Commonwealth Investment and
Enterprise Council. Although the name might imply some kind of official
Commonwealth status, it is in fact merely a small business entity.

Marland’s Wikipeida entry states he was then ‘made Chairman’ of the


Council, whereas in fact, as the Director and 50% shareholder of the £2.00
company, he plainly accorded himself the title of Chairman.
The website of the Commonwealth Investment and Enterprise Council
(CWIEC) is surprisingly uninformative about its limited company status in
the ‘About Us’ section, preferring to concentrate on the apparent
relationship with the Commonwealth Secretariat, which has provided the
company with ‘small’ office space at its headquarters in Malborough House.

Indeed, the CWIEC appears to have acquired what it describes as “a


mandate” to organise trade events for the Commonwealth Secretariat and
says it is a not for profit company dedicated to boosting trade and
enterprise within the Commonwealth. Notably, it was the CWIEC that
organsied the face-saving Britain/Malaysia trade event for Najib at
Malborough House in June 2016, shortly after the Department of Justice
published its court filing over 1MDB that showed a billion dollars of
borrowed cash had gone from the fund into Najib’s bank accounts.

That trade conference took place just two days after Cameron’s ‘Anti-
Corruption Conference’ in London, which was in exactly the same location
at Malborough House.

Questioned by Channel 4 News outside the controversial event, Lord


Marland implied there could be no proof that Najib had taken the money,
until his own appointed Attorney General launched a prosecution (thus
ignoring the fact that Najib had just fired the previous AG, who had
attempted to do just that).

Najib opens the Trade Conference in Malborough House, London in the middle of the 1MDB scandal. Marland (seated 2nd right)
described the event as a ‘huge love-in’ to the audience

Although the conference was described as non-official by UK government


spokesmen, who claimed no ministers would attend, in the event Hugo
Swire, then a Foreign Office Minister, none the less attended it. Swire at
the time told the Wall Street Journal “I am not setting myself up as a judge
and jury” on Najib, thus registering an apparent Government line towards
the 1MDB affair.
Instead, Lord Marland described the conference as “a huge love-in” to
attendees and took the opportunity to thank Najib for Malaysia’s
investment in the Battersea Power Station in the following terms: “When
our country was at its knees you came and invested”. The Battersea Power
Station project, for which Marland takes personal credit, has since
spiralled in costs to make it London’s most expensive ever development.

Last December, Lord Marland again visited Malaysia to “visit key business
leaders and senior Government representatives” and to promote another
upcoming trade meeting in London due next month.

Official sounding event, is in fact organised by a private limited company with top political connections

During the visit to KL Marland was described as a ‘great supporter of


Malaysia’ by his hosts, the CWEIC’s KL chief, Tony Collingridge, but there
was no mention of SCL’s commercial activities or election consultancies
promoting BN:

“A highlight of Lord Marland’s visit was his meetings with


Malaysian Minister of Finance II, Datuk Seri Johari Abdul
Ghani and the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Both were delighted to meet with us
and be briefed on CWEIC’s activities in advance of CHOGM
2018. They expressed support for the goals of the CWEIC in
Malaysia and more widely, and spoke encouragingly about
our plans for the Commonwealth Business Forum.
We were also pleased to be able to meet with the Secretary-
General of the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade &
Industry (MITI) and his team, to discuss their strategic
partnership with the CWEIC.
Overall it was a hugely worthwhile visit for both myself as
Malaysia Director and Lord Marland, who is a great
supporter of Malaysia. There is a great deal of follow-up to be
done as the CWEIC is clear that Malaysia holds a key role in
the region and will be integral to economic growth in south-
east Asia. [Tony Collingridge, Director Malaysia,
CWEIC]

Political Clout
The newly appointed Director of the ‘Commonwealth Investment and
Enterprise Council’ is none other than Hugo Swire MP, who took up the job
after losing Foreign Office post in a government re-shuffle in late 2016.
Swire has now been registered as a controlling individual of this limited
company as of July 27th last year. The good relationship with the pseudo-
official company has therefore provided valuable political support for Najib
in the UK.

Sarawak Report therefore questions the apparent conflict between


Marland’s not for profit activities, organising trade links with
Commonwealth Countries and high profile events attended by government
leaders, and the various secretive SCL election campaigns being conducted
to keep those leaders in power like Malaysia.

We suggest that it is inappropriate that SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a


company of which Marland is a shareholder, should be covertly pitching for
multi-million dollar re-election contracts funded by Malaysian public
money for the ruling party without the matter being declared. And we
suggest that it throws new light on Lord Marland’s enthusiastic ‘friendship’
and support for the BN government, particularly when advocating Najib in
the UK.

The UK government has raised eyebrows over its failure to publicly


condemn 1MDB and straight after Najib visited Trump last September he
flew on to visit Theresa May. We ask if lobbying was involved in promoting
this reputation boosting visit, used by Najib to inform the Malaysian public
that he is acceptable to world leaders despite 1MDB. If so, who was
involved and were they paid?
Najib and May in September – who lobbied for the visit?

Further Links Between SCL and The


Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment
Council
SCL has also been linked to
another controversial re-election
campaign in support of the
present Maltese government,
whose alleged corruption has
become a focus of international
attention following the car bomb
murder of a campaigning
journalist, who had criticised that
alleged corruption.

The Maltese Government has been


also been promoted as a close
partner of the CWIEC’s various
not for profit activities to promote
inter-Commonwealth Trade, again
reflecting a somewhat under-
Close founding partnership with investor Malta
declared relationship, whereby
Lord Marland’s client at SCL has
been caught up in image boosting activities linked to the Commonwealth
Secretariat and the promotion of Britain’s new trade initiatives in the
Commonwealth post-Brexit.

Lord Marland was a public campaigner in favour of Brexit and a donor to


that campaign. Cambridge Analytica/ SCL was also hired by Nigel Farage
to promote Brexit in the run up to the suprise referendum win, which has
been substantially credited to the company’s successful use of new media
big data targeting, which is now known to have been based on stolen
Facebook material.

Any More Business We Don’t Yet Know


About?
At the June 2016 Malaysia Trade Conference in London Marland told the
Wall Street Journal that he didn’t want to “interfere” in Malaysian internal
affairs by commenting on 1MDB.

On the other hand, over the course of the preceding months he appeared to
have been quite comfortable with the concept of covertly interfering in
Malaysian affairs by supporting BN’s re-election strategies in Sarawak
through his private company SCL and indeed to take credit for BN’s re-
election in Kedah in 2008.

Marland with Prince Charles at the ‘Commonwealth Business Forum’ organised by his private company the CWIEC Ltd in 2016.
Charles visited Sarawak in November 2017

Sarawak Report therefore asks whether SCL/Cambridge Analytica have any


other campaigns currently underway in Malaysia that the public might be
interested to know about?
In particular, are SCL’s big data techniques being used to influence
Malaysia’s Facebook and other voters at the upcoming general election. If
not, what is occupying the staff at the KL office at the present point of time?

What Sarawak Report is aware of is that in late 2016 SCL’s Geneva


operative, one Nicolas Giannakopoulos, invited the Editor of this blog and
several Malaysian opposition politicians to a ‘seminar’ supposedly officially
hosted by the University of Geneva. In fact, as Sarawak Report exposed,
the event was paid for by Giannakopoulos’s private businesses, which
included his agency for SCL.

Sarawak Report and the opposition members of parliament found


themselves pumped for information by Giannakopoulos about the progress
of the 1MDB investigation and relationships between opposition groups.
The event was also attended by documentary film makers, whose project
Sarawak Report also exposed had been infiltrated by Najib’s intelligence
gatherers.

Sarawak Report suggests that certain online new media campaigns, such as
the present ‘Undi Rosak’ campaign, which has been viralled in Malaysia in
order to encourage young people not to vote, display the classic hallmarks
of a Cambridge Analytica operation designed to covertly influence the
electorate.

There is one fellow who will benefit from this campaign and he is not the one currently behind bars

As all election campaign consultants working for BN will know, the youth
vote is the key danger for the ruling coalition and that to keep the younger
generation out of the voting booths is a top target in this election campaign.

We suggest online users ought not be fooled by the targeted messaging that
seeks to encourage Malaysians to give up their basic duty to vote and their
one opportunity to get rid of a criminal regime.
EXPOSE! – Petronas Was Pitched As A Front For A BN Covert Campaign By Cambridge Analytica/SCL For The Sarawak Election | Sarawak Report 22/03/

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