MACC said to consider probing Najib for abuse of power

A white Toyota Vellfire believed to be ferrying Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seen leaving his residence in Kuala Lumpur May 18, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A white Toyota Vellfire believed to be ferrying Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seen leaving his residence in Kuala Lumpur May 18, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government is considering investigating former leader Datuk Seri Najib Razak for abuse of power, as it intensifies efforts to seek evidence on wrongdoing at scandal-plagued state fund 1MDB just days after taking office.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission laid out in recent days a comprehensive list detailing the potential scope of investigations into 1MDB, according to people who have seen the document. Examples of potential abuse of power by Najib that the agency identified include witness suppression and the blocking of a central bank criminal case.

Najib had indicated at the outset that he was “prepared and willing to extend his fullest cooperation to the relevant authorities,” his lawyer Harpal Singh Grewal said in a statement yesterday in response to a raid on his client’s home. A spokesman for Najib referred Bloomberg News to this statement when asked for comment. A spokesperson for the anti-graft agency couldn’t immediately comment when reached today.

The move to lay out the scope of a renewed probe underscores how fast Mahathir’s government is moving to revive an investigation into 1MDB, which was set up in 2009 under Najib’s watch to support local infrastructure projects. Since the 92-year old defeated Najib’s government in a shock election victory last week, he has barred his former protege from leaving the country; and police have searched Najib’s home and seized documents from his former office this week.

Mahathir said Wednesday he will seek to recover funds diverted from 1MDB by reaching out to authorities in Switzerland, the US, Singapore and other jurisdictions. A parliamentary committee in 2016 identified at least US$4.2 billion (RM16.7 billion) in irregular transactions by the fund.

Mahathir, who was Najib’s long-term ally and who is back in power after a prior stint as premier from 1981 to 2003, accused him on the campaign trail of being a “thief” over alleged graft at 1MDB. Najib has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by the attorney general at the time, while the fund has repeatedly denied any misconduct.

The 1MDB scandal spawned global probes as investigators tracked a money trail stretching from Switzerland to Singapore and the US Department of Justice alleges that US$3.5 billion from the fund went missing. — Bloomberg

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