US: Justice Dept Probe Should Not Affect Visit by Malaysia’s Najib

BenarNews staff
170911-MY-najib-620.jpg Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks to reporters at the Subang Air Force base during the deployment of humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Sept. 9, 2017.

A U.S. Justice Department probe into a massive corruption scandal in Malaysia implicating Prime Minister Najib Razak should not be linked to talks this week between the Malaysian leader and President Donald Trump, the White House said Monday.

Human rights and other groups criticized the timing of the talks scheduled for Tuesday, especially after the Justice Department said it was moving forward with a criminal investigation into money stolen from the Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) founded by Najib.

The Justice Department is among crime-busting agencies in six countries, including Singapore and Switzerland, probing the scandal at 1MDB from which more than $4.5 billion have been allegedly siphoned off. Najib is alleged to have received nearly $700 million originating from the fund.

Questioned Monday about the Trump-Najib meeting amid the corruption probe, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the investigation was apolitical.

“Look, we’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation being led by the Department of Justice, and that investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place tomorrow,” she told reporters.

She added that Trump looked forward to discussing a wide range of regional and security issues with Najib, including strengthening counterterrorism cooperation, addressing North Korea’s nuclear threat and enhancing security in the disputed South China Sea.

“Those are certainly, I think, some of the priorities of tomorrow’s meeting, but I’m not going to get ahead much further than that on any conversation that may take place,” she said.

Last year, the Justice Department filed more than two dozen lawsuits in a bid to recover assets allegedly stolen by businessmen associated with 1MDB. Those assets include a diamond necklace for Najib’s wife, Rosmah.

Najib, who until last year was the chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia’s attorney general.

The U.S.-based Wall Street Journal in a stinging editorial last week questioned the White House decision to have the meeting with Najib when he had jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and “is a suspect in a corruption scandal that spans the globe.”

Nurul Izzah, the daughter of the jailed Anwar, said the 1MDB scandal “alleges that Najib’s government routinely pilfers public funds for its own enrichment and the funding of its political survival.”

“Our political leaders are so accustomed to power that they will do anything to keep it,” she said in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Monday.

She accused Najib’s own Malay, Muslim-based party of “support of extremist groups that routinely harass and frighten the country’s significant Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities” and charged that that his government clamped down on the media and detained peaceful political protesters under laws meant to fight terrorism.

Najib said his visit to Washington marked the 60th anniversary of strong U.S.-Malaysia bilateral relations and was aimed at boosting ties even further.

“For if America wishes to find a partner for peace, for prosperity and for security in the coming decades of the 21st century, it will find a staunch and steadfast friend in Malaysia,” he said in an opinion piece in The Hill newspaper, which reports on the inner workings of the U.S. congress and the nexus of politics and business, among other subjects.

In a personal blog post, Najib said he would also discuss the humanitarian crisis faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar, whose government has faced strong international criticism over its crackdown on the Muslim minority.

The latest crackdown began when Rohingya militants ambushed security forces in Rakhine State on Aug. 25.

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the violence in Myanmar that has sent more than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh.


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