PRIME Minister David Cameron has challenged his Malaysian counterpart over corruption allegations which have triggered a political crisis in the country.
The Tory leader had a one-on-one meeting with Najib Razak where they spoke about the “issues” facing his government, a British official said.
Mr Najib, who has faced allegations that he received about $700 million (£448m) in government money, has sacked the attorney general who had been investigating him and his deputy, who had been a key critic.
Leaked documents allegedly show the money, from state investment fund 1MDB, went into Najib’s personal accounts.
Najib, who has claimed the attack on him is politically motivated, has not disputed the existence of the accounts or the receipt of the funds, but insisted the money was not used for personal gain.
The Malaysian leader has also been accused of clamping down on opposition, with the publication of a newspaper being suspended by the state over its coverage of the 1MDB scandal.
After the one-on-one meeting, Mr Cameron and Najib had a meeting accompanied by senior officials, where he raised the case of imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
“We should be working together for an open society and open economy,” Mr Cameron is understood to have said.
In a hastily-arranged change to the official schedule, Mr Cameron’s national security adviser Sir Kim Darroch met Anwar’s daughter for more than half an hour. It is understood they talked about his treatment and “more broadly about politics and freedom of the press”.
Mr Cameron met civil society figures and had a “lively” discussion around Islam, extremism, a free press and corruption and the judicial process, sources said.
Ahead of his arrival in Malaysia, Mr Cameron, who has used his south-east Asian tour to campaign against the “cancer” of corruption, told reporters accompanying him on the trip: “It is absolutely right to go ahead with these visits.
“The issues of corruption are issues in this region as elsewhere in the world.
“I don’t think it helps not travelling to a country and turning away. It is better to go and talk about these things.”
He added: “It is right to go ahead with the visit, but nothing should be off the table. We should talk about these issues including the specific ones now.”
In Malaysia, he also urged Muslim investors to pour money into major British construction projects as he revealed a catalogue of sharia-compliant opportunities.
He said London had been “transformed” by Islamic finance and he wanted other regions – including the Northern Powerhouse – to be targets for investors. UK Trade and Investment has produced a “pitch book” containing details of 18 projects which comply with Islamic law.
A total of £17 billion of projects are included in the document, with schemes including a transport upgrade in Leeds, the regeneration of Slough and housing in Manchester.
At a reception in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Cameron set out his vision of making the UK a centre for Islamic finance. He said: “From the Shard to Chelsea Barracks, our capital city has been transformed by Islamic finance deals.”
On Wednesday, Mr Cameron became the first UK Prime Minister to visit Vietnam.