Prime minister Najib is key figure in Malaysian corruption scandal, says minister

2 Sep 16

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is the mysterious unnamed official cited as a key figure in the billion-dollar looting of the country’s wealth fund, according to a senior member of his own cabinet.

 

In an interview with the BBC, Abduh Rahmen Dahlan, a senior government minister, said that the prime minister is clearly the individual referred to in a US Department of Justice lawsuit as “Malaysian Official 1”.

The lawsuit requested the seizure of assets it says were brought with more than $3.5bn allegedly stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, created by Najib in 2009 and overseen by him until recently.

The fund was established to boost Malaysia’s economy and development and secure infrastructure deals with overseas investors, but instead ended up accumulating around $11bn in debts and defaulting on its repayments.

By 2014, it emerged that this could have been due to more than chronic mismanagement. It unfolded that 1MDB’s accounts were victim of an allegedly international, billion-dollar money laundering scheme, and Najib was a central figure in the accusations.

Rahmen Dahlan’s comments, which were aired on the BBC late last night, confirmed what many Malaysians already suspected. In a later statement to clarify his remarks, he said: “As I told the BBC, it’s obvious that the so-called ‘Malaysian Official 1’ referred to by the US Department of Justice is our prime minister.”

The US lawsuit said Malaysian Official 1 played a key role in the misappropriation of billions of dollars from the fund.

The individual allegedly received $731m of the stolen loot, before returning $620m of it.

An unexplained $680m in payments, channelled through Singapore, were identified in Najib’s personal accounts as part of investigations. He claimed this was a gift from Saudi Arabia and that he had returned $620m of it.

The news has dominated headlines in Malaysia. However, Rahmen Dahlan, a close ally of Najib, has clarified that he does not believe the prime minister is guilty of any corruption.

He said because Malaysian Official 1 is not named, while a number of other individuals are, they are not a criminal target in the lawsuit.

“As any lawyer will confirm, the difference between being named as the subject of a civil lawsuit and merely being referred to in an investigation is black and white,” he said in his statement.

“Meanwhile, after comprehensive investigations by multiple authorities, our prime minister has been cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Najib also denies being involved in the scandal, but many Malaysians still believe their prime minister is culpable, at the very least because the looting was able to occur under his watch.

The prime minister has done all he can to stem the criticism. In 2015, he ousted the country’s hostile attorney general and replaced him with an ally, who swiftly closed the investigation into the $680m deposited in Najib’s account.

Najib also suspended the task force investigating the corruption and arrested or transferred investigators at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission who were looking in to it.

Authorities in the US, Hong Kong and Switzerland have all opened investigations into what happened at 1MDB.

In April, the disgraced fund’s executive board  offered their resignations after a damning report from the country’s Public Accounts Committee, which called for a criminal investigation into 1MDB’s CEO and anyone else involved in the fund’s mismanagement. 

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