Malaysia rocked by premier’s cash scandal

Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak faces possible criminal charges over payments. Picture: AP

Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak faces possible criminal charges over payments. Picture: AP

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Malaysia’s prime minister is facing the risk of criminal charges over allegations that hundreds of millions of pounds were funneled from an indebted state fund to his personal bank accounts, the first time a Malaysian leader has faced criminal allegations.

The country’s attorney general confirmed on Saturday that he had received documents from an official investigation that made the link between prime minister Najib Razak and the investment fund 1MDB. The existence of the documents was first reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Asia edition on Friday, showing some $700 million (£450m) were wired from entities linked to the fund into Mr Razak’s accounts.

The documents sent to the attorney general pave the way for possible criminal charges. It is one of the worst political crises for Mr Razak, who has come under increasing criticism over his leadership.

Mr Razak, who has denied taking any money for personal gains, said yesterday that he would consult with his lawyers to decide his next course of action on the “malicious accusations” against him.

“It’s damning and disastrous for Najib,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who heads the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs think-tank.

“This is really uncharted territory in Malaysian politics. For the first time ever, we are seeing a prime minister facing the possibility of a criminal charge,” he said.

1MDB, set up by Mr Razak in 2009 to help develop new industries, has accumulated 42 billion ringgit (£7.12 billion) in debt after its energy ventures abroad faltered.

Critics, led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, have voiced concerns about 1MDB’s massive debt and alleged lack of transparency.

The Wall Street Journal report said five deposits were made into Mr Razak’s accounts and that the two largest transactions, worth $620m and $61m, were done in March 2013 ahead of general elections.

Mr Razak slammed the report as part of a “political sabotage” by Mr Mohamad to remove him. Mr Mohamad, who stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in power but has remained an influential political figure, has been leading calls for Mr Razak to step down.

1MDB said it had never provided any funds to Mr Razak.

Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, however, said a task force investigating 1MDB for alleged impropriety had given him papers “including documents related to allegations of fund transfer into the account of the prime minister.” Abdul Gani said the task force raided offices of three companies linked to 1MDB that were allegedly involved in the fund transfer. He didn’t give further details on the documents or say what actions would be taken.

Mr Razak’s deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, said the allegations must be investigated because they tarnish Mr Razak’s credibility and integrity. Opposition lawmakers have said he should go on leave and also declare his assets.

Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said the allegations against Mr Razak were “reckless” and “bordering on criminal offences” because they were based on unverified documents. He warned that police would “not hesitate to use the full force of the law against those who attempt to harm Malaysia’s economy and our democratic process”.

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