Former Malaysian PM faces new corruption probe after election defeat

By on 17/05/2018
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister of Malaysia (Image courtesy: Yanbei).

A former top corruption investigator has accused Malaysia’s defeated leader Najib Razak of personally blocking an investigation into a multi-billion dollar financial scandal, apparently prompting a police raid on Najib’s home on Wednesday night.

The move came after Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) centre-right coalition government suffered a swingeing defeat in the country’s general election last week, ending the regime’s six decades in power.

Pakatan Harapan (PH), the centre-left coalition that is now led by 92-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, won 48% of the vote against the BN’s 34% in last week’s poll, gaining a substantial parliamentary majority and 57 additional seats.

Graft investigator

After a one-day delay, during which the country held its breath, Mahathir was confirmed as the new prime minister late on 10 May, becoming the world’s oldest serving elected head of state. He went on to appoint his first three ministers over the weekend.

As Mahathir officially took up office on Monday, a complaint against Najib was lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commisison (MACC) by Abdul Razak Idris, its former investigations and intelligence director.

Adbul Razak Idris alleged that Najib had tried to stop investigations into the embezzlement of US$3.5bn from the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund, acting either on his own or with the help of civil servants. Najib was chairman of the 1MDB.

Second attempt

“The reason I am lodging the reports today is so that the MACC can take swift action,” he told the media before entering the commission’s headquarters in Putrajaya, as reported by Malaysian news site The Star Online.

Abdul Razak Idris said he would discuss with MACC officials whether he should lodge another report under sections 217 and 218 of the penal code regarding certain public servants protecting a person from punishment or property from forfeiture with MACC or the police.

“Some are also worried for me for boldly coming out to lodge a report but it’s alright,” he said. “I’m already 69 years old. If I die, I die for my country.”

Coffers looted

In the largest single action ever brought under the US government’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the US State Department is seeking to recover more than US$1bn in assets that were looted from the 1MDB fund and laundered through the US.

According to civil forfeiture complaints filed in July 2016, more than US$3.5bn in funds belonging to 1MDB were embezzled by high-level 1MBD officials and their associates between 2009 and 2015, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

Assets bought with the funds included luxury homes and hotels in New York and Los Angeles, a business jet, paintings by Monet and Van Gogh, publishing rights in EMI Music and production of the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, it said.

An investigation within Malaysia under Najib’s government into the alleged corruption cleared the then prime minister, who denies any wrongdoing.

Over the weekend, Mahathir ordered the initial investigation document on the 1MDB scandal be declassified under the country’s official secrets laws, as Najib and his wife were put on an immigration blacklist to ensure they did not flee the country, as reported by The Guardian. And on Wednesday evening, police officers entered Najib’s family home and searched other properties linked to him.

Hamsa: respect election result

Monday also saw the resignations and suspensions of several senior officials, The Star reported. Dzulkifli Ahmad, chief commissioner of MACC, who last year pledged that the civil service would be free of corruption by 2020, submitted his resignation in the morning.

And Mahathir announced that attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali had been sent on leave after he reported for work on Monday and would be temporarily replaced by the solicitor general, pending the results of a police report and investigation.

As rumours swirled last week about whether Mahathir, who switched to the opposition PH alliance earlier this year, would be able to form a government, chief secretary Dr Ali Hamsa told public servants it was their legal duty to accept and respect the election results.

“I call on all federal public service personnel, state public services, federal and state statutory bodies and local authorities to further carry out their responsibilities in delivering their service to the people while staying loyal to king, country and the elected government,” he said.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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