Malaysia Fails to Tie $27M Seized From Najib-Linked Residence to 1MDB

S. Adie Zul and Nisha David
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia Fails to Tie $27M Seized From Najib-Linked Residence to 1MDB Former Prime Minister Najib Razak leaves Kuala Lumpur High Court after a judge rejected the government’s claim to $27.5 million seized from a residence linked to him, May 20, 2021
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Malaysia’s government failed to prove that 114 million ringgit (U.S. $27.5 million) in cash seized from a property linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak three years ago was stolen from state fund 1MDB, a court here ruled Thursday.

Najib’s lawyer said he would seek the return of the funds that the ex-P.M. had claimed belonged to his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party.

Kuala Lumpur High Court Justice Muhammad Jamil Hussin ruled that prosecutors did not prove that the funds seized were obtained from illegal activities.

“The court concluded that the prosecution has failed to tie the funds seized from property owned by Obyu Holdings Sdn Bhd to any criminal breach of trust case,” Muhammad said.

Malaysian media has reported that Obyu is owned by Bustari Yusof, a confidante of Najib and the brother of Minister of Works Fadillah Yusof. The government named Obyu as the respondent in the forfeiture suit, with UMNO and Najib as third parties.

Justice Muhammad ruled that the investigating officer, Commissioner D. Rajagopal, could not convince the court that the seized funds were stolen property acquired by fraud.

“The investigating officer has failed to expose and identify who had been entrusted with 1Malaysia Development Bhd, who had the dominant authority [over] the 1MDB fund and [who] had explicitly abused the fund, while [also] failing to explain how Najib was an agent to 1MDB,” Muhammad said.

“On the balance of probabilities, the applicant failed to prove the seized money was linked to money laundering or proceeds from unlawful activities, involving criminal breach of trust and stolen property. Therefore, the applicant’s application is dismissed.”

Najib founded 1MDB, the state development fund, in 2009 while serving as prime minister and finance minister.

Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors had alleged that at least $4.5 billion (18.8 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014, in a corruption scandal that implicated foreign and local financial institutions and high-ranking officials, including Najib.

The former P.M. last year was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption-related charges in a trial over the looting of money linked to a subsidiary of 1MDB, but he is out on bail and appealing the conviction.

The appeal hearing ended earlier this week, but the Court of Appeal reserved its judgment for an unspecified date.

‘A huge victory,’ Najib says

As part of investigations into 1MDB corruption, police on May 17, 2018, raided properties linked to Najib, including in Obyu Holdings’ condominium.

They found and seized the cash totaling 114 million ringgit – in 26 currencies – stashed in 35 suitcases, police told reporters at the time. The bulk of the cash was in Malaysian ringgit and Singaporean dollars.

Investigators also seized jewelry, including a diamond necklace valued at 6.4 million ringgit ($1.5million), 284 handbags, including Hermès bags valued at 51.3 million ringgit ($12.3 million), 423 watches, including Rolex timepieces, and 234 sunglasses, police said.

The cash and items seized were valued at between 900 million ringgit ($217.2 million) and 1.1 billion ringgit ($265.5 million).

On Thursday, the judge did not rule on the return of the seized money that is being held by the Central Bank of Malaysia.

Muhammad Saifuddin Hashim Musaimi, the deputy public prosecutor, urged the court to suspend that decision pending an appeal.

Meanwhile, Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah insisted the government return the funds to his client.

“They [the government] made an application to forfeit. The judge said no, denied it. So they have to return it. … I’m going to give them 24 hours,” he said.

Najib praised the ruling.

“The court has decided that the prosecution failed to prove that the funds were from 1MDB and this means that there was no crime involved,” Najib told reporters.

“For me this is a huge victory, not only that the funds have been cleared from criminal activity, but it is also proved that all the allegations leveled against me – that I have swindled 1MDB funds, that I was a thief and a thug – were merely baseless and malicious allegations.”


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.