Malaysia’s Prime Minister Cleared in Corruption Probes

BenarNews Staff
2016.01.26
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160126-MY-najib-620 Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (center) is surrounded as he leaves the International Conference on Deradicalization and Countering Violent Extremism in Kuala Lumpur, Jan. 25, 2016.
BenarNews

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Tuesday it is time to put a financial scandal behind him now that the attorney general has cleared him of potential corruption charges over nearly U.S. $700 million deposited into his private bank accounts.

“The findings followed a thorough investigation by the relevant institutions, and he has confirmed what I have maintained all along: that no crime was committed,” Najib said in a statement.

Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali earlier in the day announced that “no criminal offense” had been committed and that the U.S. $681 million- (2.08 billion ringgit-) sum transferred into the PM’s accounts was a “personal donation” from Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

The attorney general’s announcement ends an investigation at the national level into a scandal that engulfed Najib for the past six months and led to calls for his resignation.

“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.

Apandi announced that his office was closing out investigations into the matter and other cases in which Najib’s name had surfaced since July, and which have been linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), an indebted state investment fund whose advisory board is chaired by the PM.

“I will now redouble my focus on the key issues that matter to Malaysia, especially combating the threat of terrorism, and strengthening the economy in the face of global headwinds,” Najib said in reacting to Apandi’s announcement.

It came on the second day of an international conference on deredicalization and countering violent extremism, hosted by the Malaysian government and attended by senior officials from 18 other nations, including the United States and other Western countries.

‘Satisfied’

In a statement, the attorney general said there was no evidence showing that “the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly.”

“Evidence obtained from the investigation does not show that the donation was given as an inducement or reward for doing or forbearing to do anything in relation to his capacity as a Prime Minister,” Apandi said, referring to the$681 million deposited into Najib’s accounts between late March 2013 and early April 2013 – during the run-up to that year’s general election.

The $681 million “was given to him without any consideration” by the Saudi royal family, the AG said, but the prime minister gave back U.S. $620 million (2.03 billion ringgit) to the donor in August 2013 – after the May 5 election – “because the sum was not utilized.”

The attorney general did not explain what happened with the rest of the $681 million given to Najib.

“[I] am satisfied that as no criminal offense has been committed, there is no necessity for Malaysia to make a request for a mutual legal assistance to any foreign States for the purpose of completing the criminal investigation by the MACC in relation to the said RM2.08 billion donation,” Apandi added, referring to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

He also cleared the prime minister in investigations of financial wrongdoing in SRC International, a government-owned firm linked to 1MDB.

Najib’s name may have been cleared at the national level, but 1MDB’s name surfaced last year in investigations under way in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal. In September, the U.S.-based paper reported that the FBI had opened a money-laundering probe in connection with 1MDB.

‘Executive plumber’

Malaysians reacted angrily to Tuesday’s announcement.

“The fiddler plays to the tune of the payer,” a Malaysian, who lives in Negeri Sembilan state and requested anonymity, told BenarNews by phone, alluding to the relationship between Apandi and Najib.

Another citizen, a resident of Kedah state, called Apandi “an executive plumber.”

Najib appointed Apandi as the nation’s top lawyer after sacking Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail in July, who was then leading an investigation into the allegations of corruption of against the prime minister.

On the same day that Apandi cleared the prime minister, the attorney general was named to the board of directors of Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH), an indebted government-linked organization that provides financial services to Malaysian Muslims who plan to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Malaysian media reported.

“While the announcement by the AG was rather anticipated, to say the least, it couldn't have come at a worse time,” the source from Kedah told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

“Today it was revealed that Tabung Haji's reserves are in the red. As if to rub salt into the nation's wound, AG Apandi was today appointed to the board of Tabung Haji,” he said by phone.

Echoing the criticism of the AG’s move to clear Najib of potential corruption charges, members of the political opposition questioned Apandi’s integrity.

“The attorney-general should not have been involved in the decision affecting the PM because he was appointed by the PM,” Reuters quoted Democratic Action Party parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang as saying.

“This will cause people to ask whether the AG carried out his duty professionally, freely and fairly,” opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said, according to Agence France-Presse.

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