A former aide to ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak has been remanded for a week to assist an investigation into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal, anti-corruption officials said of the first person arrested in Malaysia in connection with the probe.
Escorted by officers of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, 42, arrived at the Putrajaya High Court on Monday morning to appear before a judge.
Sources said he had been summoned to MACC headquarters late Sunday to have his statement recorded as part of an investigation into money allegedly stolen from 1MDB, the state investment fund established by Najib in 2009.
Two sources at MACC confirmed the arrest and the remand to BenarNews, but spoke on condition of anonymity.
Amhari had served as a special officer to the prime minister and, since 2009, worked directly with Najib on national economic policies and the annual budget, according to profiles uploaded on the networking site LinkedIn and the website of the Eisenhower Fellowships, a U.S. organization that granted Amhari a scholarship in 2013.
He will be held until July 1 and investigated under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act for receiving bribes, a MACC official said.
Previously, Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, appeared before the MACC to be questioned in the investigation into a scandal relating to SRC International, a subsidiary of 1MDB which saw 2.6 billion ringgit (U.S. $647.1 million) allegedly syphoned from the company into two personal bank accounts belonging to the then-prime minister.
Amhari first came into the public eye in April 2017 when he represented Malaysia in negotiations over a dispute between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co. (IPIC), along with 1MDB Chairman Irawan Siregar Abdullah and CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
His name came back into the spotlight when Rafizi Ramli, vice president of the then-opposition People’s Justice Party (PKR), claimed that 2 million ringgit ($498,000) from Najib’s personal account had moved into the accounts of a company owned by Amhari in 2014.
The firm, Orb Solutions Sbd Bhd, which was registered as a “web management and communications strategy solutions” company, is jointly owned by Amhari and a former senior executive of Malaysia’s satellite TV provider, Astro.
Najib and his Barisan Nasional coalition were ousted in last month’s general election by an opposition alliance headed by his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, who ran a campaign focusing on Najib and the 1MDB scandal.
Since then, the new government headed by Mahathir has been reviewing projects and deals signed by Najib and his administration. This has led, among other moves, to a review of a deal for a high-speed rail link connecting Kuala Lumpur with Singapore, as well as a number of resignations of politically linked government officials and corporate heads, including the former chief justice and attorney general.
Most recently on Thursday, the Malaysian government announced that it would need to inject 2.8 billion ringgit ($697 million) into completing a skyscraper project started under Najib to prevent further losses after funds meant for its development were allegedly misappropriated by 1MDB for other purposes.
The 1MDB scandal has led to money-laundering investigations in the United States and other countries.
The U.S. Justice Department has described the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB as “the worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.”
Najib, who was barred from leaving the country soon after he lost the May 9 election, has denied that he committed any criminal wrongdoing in relation with the sovereign wealth fund.