The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said Wednesday that an independent panel had asked it reopen its investigations into a controversial donation received by Prime Minister Najib Razak despite an order by the country's top government lawyer to close the case.
Nearly a month after Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Najib of corruption following revelations that more that $600 million was deposited into the prime minister's personal bank account, the MACC said in a statement that the Operations Review Panel (ORP) had asked it to forge ahead with investigations.
The ORP is an independent body set up by the government to monitor the operations of the MACC and give its views concerning cases that are not taken to court for prosecution by the public prosecutor.
“We found there is strong evidence to pursue further investigations and action," one of the panel members told BenarNews, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Last year, Najib faced allegations of graft and mismanagement at the debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and a revelation that about $681 million (2.6 billion ringgit) was deposited into his personal bank account.
The attorney-general ruled last month that the transfer to Najib's account was a gift from Saudi Arabia's royal family, saying no further action was necessary.
Najib insisted he did not take any money for personal gain.
But the MACC had referred the case to the eight-member ORP, comprising former civil servants, corporate figures, academics and lawyers, among others.
"Since MACC's investigation into the alleged 2.6 billion ringgit donation case is still incomplete, the panel recommended to MACC that it continues its investigation on the case," the MACC statement said.
It did not elaborate on whether it would indeed pursue the investigations as recommended.
Apandi had no immediate comment, a spokesman for the attorney-general's office told Reuters news agency in a text message. A spokesman for the prime minister's office declined to comment when contacted by telephone.
The panel also recommended that the MACC seek the help of Apandi in obtaining mutual legal assistance "in order for MACC to obtain evidence and documents from financial institutions based overseas as part of its investigations into RM 2.6 billion."
The MACC said the ORP also recommended that investigation papers on SRC International, a 1MDB subsidiary probed for alleged misappropriation of funds, be resubmitted to Apandi for review.
‘An unnecessary distraction’
Last month, the MACC said it had sent two reports to Apandi's office following its investigations into the transfer of money into Najib's bank accounts and the affairs of 1MDB, but it did not reveal its findings or say whether any wrongdoing was involved.
The MACC had said that any decision to take further action based on its probe would be up to the attorney-general.
Two former leaders of Najib's United Malays National Organization have since filed court cases against Apandi over his decision to clear Najib of potential corruption-related charges in probes linked to 1MDB.
Apandi had said that most of the money was eventually returned to the donor but he did not say what the donation was intended for or what happened to the remaining money.
“This issue has been an unnecessary distraction for the country. Now that the matter has been comprehensively put to rest, it is time for us to unite and move on,” Najib said after the AG’s announcement.
Najib chairs the indebted state fund’s advisory board.
Also last month, Switzerland’s attorney general had announced his office was requesting Malaysia’s help in determining whether $4 billion (16.57 billion ringgit) in funds from 1MDB and affiliated companies had been misappropriated.
Authorities in neighboring Singapore also announced that they had seized many bank accounts in the city-state as part of investigations into possible money-laundering related to probes of 1MDB, media widely reported.
Najib had sacked his deputy prime minister, replaced the former attorney-general with Apandi and cracked down on opposition leaders and academics after he was implicated in the scandal.
S. Adie Zul contributed to this report.