Kuala Lumpur saw large anti-government protests last year. Source: Wikimedia
Ex-Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has filed a lawsuit against former ally, the current premier Najib Razak, alleging corruption and abuse of power.
Mahathir, 90, who ruled for more than two decades, has led the charge against his former protégé in the most recent episode of the ongoing disagreement between the pair although the impact is unlikely to be significant as the case will not be heard for months.
Under-fire Najib has been fighting off criticism over charges of corruption involving the debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and deposits into his private bank accounts of around US$680 million.
Najib has denied the allegations and maintained that he did not use the funds for personal gain.
Earlier this year, Malaysia’s attorney general cleared him of any criminal offences, saying the millions transferred into Najib personal bank account were a gift from the Saudi royal family not from 1MDB.
Najib’s predecessor accused him in the lawsuit of the “corrupt practice of carrying out various steps that were actively and deliberately taken in bad faith … to obstruct, interfere, impede and derail the various investigations and inquiries which were being conducted by various legal enforcement agencies”.
He said the premier had dismantled “the rule of law and the sanctity of the provision of our federal constitution”.
Najib’s minister of communications dismissed Mahathir’s allegations.
“He is clutching at straws … Mahathir has run out of options,” the minister said.
Mahathir was joined in the lawsuit by Khairuddin bin Abu Hassan and Anina binti Saadudin, who are also former members of the United Malay National Organisation (Umno) which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence.
Mahathir, after calling for Najib to resign, joined an anti-government protest last year, where he called for a “people’s power” movement to topple the current administration.
At the beginning of the month, Mahathir buried his grievances with bitter adversaries of old, including the party of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who Mahathir had sentenced to nine years in prison.
Mahathir and the other plaintiffs are seeking exemplary damages from Najib to the government of 2.6 billion ringgit (US$650 million) and aggravated damages of 42 million ringgit. They claim this is equal to the amounts allegedly deposited into Najib’s account.
Mahathir’s lawyer, Haniff Khatri, said: “We don’t go with empty hands, [we] have material, witnesses and we are confident of the outcome.”
Ibrahim Suffian, director of independent pollster Merdeka Centre, said: “The real impact is very limited in the sense of legal terms. This is going to be battle that is drawn out for a longer period.”