The evolving scandal involving Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been accused of pocketing money from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a strategic development company wholly owned by the Government of Malaysia, hit closer to home yesterday.
Some of the funds, the total which which allegedly amounted to US$700bil, has been said to be parked with a bank based in Singapore.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore on 8 July said that authorities were “in touch with their Malaysian counterparts” on investigations into 1MDB. “We are committed to assist within the full ambit of our laws. As there are ongoing investigations in Malaysia, it is not appropriate to provide more details.”
Even as a task force raided 1MDB’s office on 8 July to investigate the matter, Mr Najib has maintain that he was innocent and that the charges were trumped up by his political opponents to unseat a democratically-elected Prime Minister.
The controversy has been rumbling in the background in Malaysia, but the bells sounded when the Wall Street Journal launched an accusation indicating that it has documents to prove its allegation, and subsequently released flowcharts and bank documents to show transactions in March 2013, December 2014 and February 2015 that purportedly ended up in Najib’s accounts.
Mr Najib had denied the accusations. “Accusations by the Wall Street Journal are malicious and supported by certain quarters in the country with the purpose of forcing me to quit as prime minister and president of the United Malays National Organisation,” he had said.
Mr Najib to date has instructed his lawyers to consider action against WSJ over its report.
But not all were convinced by his stand. “If he had been defamed and you know you have been defamed, you instruct your lawyer to take action,” said Democratic Action Party National Advisor Lim Kit Siang. “You don’t ask your lawyer for advice, correct?”
Mr Naijb’s Cabinet has largely stood by him, with Ministers calling for restraint until clarity could be established.
“Right now the taskforce is investigating the matter,” Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamalluddin was reported to have said. “Until the taskforce comes out with the result of investigations, it’s too premature to comment about anything else.”
“I think no one is above the laws of the country, but let the laws and investigations have its due process,” said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. “Let’s not speculate and be divisive among ourselves, especially during this Ramadan month, and accuse someone who might be innocent.”
Members of Malaysia’s opposition parties were less supportive. Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, wife ofopposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who had been jailed on sodomy charges, had urged Mr Najib to take the “gentlemanly” route by taking a leave of absence while investigations are carried out.
Pakatan Rakyat’s vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar had also indicated that the party will file a civil suit to nullify seats won by Barisan Nasional in the last general election, as the WSJ report indicated that funds from 1MDB were used for its BN’s general election campaign.
“The person who has shamed the country is Najib and his 1MDB. Before this, the country was never ridiculed like this, with such allegations that remain unanswered until now,” said former Malaysia Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, suggesting that Mr Najib should step down and criticising his Ministers for defending him.
Dow Jones & Co., which publishes WSJ, said that they “stand behind (their) fair and accurate coverage of this evolving story.”
Adapted from media reports.