Ex-PM faces ridicule amid probe

Malaysia’s scandal-ridden former prime minister Najib Razak is facing investigators for a second time in a week over the scandal involving the state-owned 1MDB investment fund.
The Malaysian police last week seized cash, luxury goods, including Birkin bags and jewellery, from Najib’s properties, worth an estimated US$27.6 million. Officers apparently spent three days counting the cash.
The police reportedly seized 284 boxes of evidence for the 1Malaysia Development Berhad probe.
Najib was mocked when he complained that investigators who raided his properties dined on food and chocolate from the fridge.
His comments led to a social-media campaign to feed the police chocolate.
Najib was first summoned four hours of questioning at the Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday and the new commission chief, Mohamad Shukri Abdull, said charges could be issued “very soon”.
The 1MDB scandal, in which US investigators alleged that Najib and his associates stole and laundered US$4.5 billion between 2009 and 2014, was seen as a key factor in the ruling coalition’s first election defeat since independence in 1957.
Lim Guan Eng, the new finance minister, said Najib’s government had conducted “an exercise of deception” over 1MDB and misrepresented the nation’s financial situation to parliament.
He said government debt exceeded US$252 billion, partly due to 1MDB’s debts.
About US$700 million from the fund allegedly flowed into Najib’s personal account, although he denies any wrongdoing, saying it was a donation from the Saudi royal family, which was mostly returned.
Najib said on Facebook that Lim’s “alarming and confusing” remarks about Malaysia’s debt and 1MDB liabilities only “tell half the story”.
“While you may want to slander and put all the blame on me to give a perception of a dire financial position to justify why you cannot deliver on your manifesto promises… you must remember that the country and our people come first,” Najib posted.
The probe does not appear to be boosting business confidence. Foreigners have sold out of the nation’s stocks for 13 consecutive days, partly after Lim said government debt was 45-per-cent higher than reported by Najib.
The government has cut revenue by scrapping the unpopular goods and services tax to meet his election pledge.
Investigators are quizzing Najib over the transfer of US$10.6 million into his account from SRC International, a 1MDB subsidiary.
Shukri said a 2015 probe into suspicious Najib’s bank transfers was abandoned after multiple death threats, including a bullet in the mail.
He said he fled to the US when the attorney general was sacked while preparing charges against Najib.

Najib Razak. Picture credit: Kremlin