Sunday, 20 May, 2018

Malaysia bars more officials from leaving country amid corruption probe

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during an election campaign in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during an election campaign in Kuala Lumpur
Melinda Barton | 16 May, 2018, 10:20

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) found evidence in late 2015 that 42 million ringgit ($10.6 million) was transferred from a former subsidiary of state fund 1MDB into an account of then Prime Minister Najib Razak, but its recommendation for further investigation was rejected by the attorney general, a member of a panel that reviewed the commission's case files told Reuters. "We will be able to charge him".

"If there is no case, we don't go for detention without trial", he said.

Najib is accused of misappropriating billions of dollars through his pet project state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and making deposits into his private accounts worth up to $1 billion. This included almost $700 million that landed in Najib's private bank accounts, the department said. He and the fund have denied wrongdoing. He said Monday that several other top government officials have also been put on a travel blacklist to facilitate graft probes but declined to name them.

In the 1990s, Mahathir was prime minister, Anwar who worked under him was his deputy and clear heir-apparent.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad on Tuesday said he will remain in office for at least one to two years.

During the campaign, Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years in a previous stint from 1981, had promised to step aside and make Anwar prime minister once he was pardoned. He quit the ruling United Malays National Organization party then and later joined the opposition, accusing UMNO's leaders of shielding Najib from the 1MDB allegations.

Mahathir and Anwar (a jailed reformist) won the general election last week.

In "an initial stage, maybe lasting one or two years, I will be the prime minister", Mahathir said, speaking by live video link from Kuala Lumpur to a Wall Street Journal CEO conference in Tokyo.

"Their passports, however, have not been revoked". Both police officers said investigators were not primarily interested in the luxury items but were chasing documents that could be vital for investigations into Najib's administration.Kuala Lumpur's police chief and an official police spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.Najib said earlier on Saturday that he was going overseas for a week to rest, but just minutes later the Department of Immigration announced that he and his wife had been barred from leaving the country.

Low, a friend of Najib's stepson Riza Aziz, had no official role at 1MDB but USA investigators say he had considerable influence over its dealings and was often in contact with Najib. Mahathir hasn't said since the election if he will proceed with the plan. He announced that he would appoint a new anti-corruption commission chief.

In a country that has never seen a change of power in its history, 92-year-old Mahathir led the opposition alliances to their first victory in 60 years last week.

In his Tuesday remarks, Mahathir said whether Najib would serve time in jail would depend on the results of a probe into the scandal. "It will take time but we want to act as soon as possible".

Both Najib and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.

"The investigation will only be closed, because of who is involved", he said.

"I have given my assurance, I am here as a concerned citizen to give complete support to manage the country on the understanding that we are committed to the reform agenda, beginning with the judiciary, media and the entire apparatus", Anwar said in a news conference at his home after he was freed from custody.

Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying in the report that his government would follow due process and Najib would be treated fairly.

Just weeks ago, Mahathir himself became a target of the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, which was passed in April.

Zunar had created widely publicized illustrations criticizing Najib and his wife, Rosmah. Singapore has punished banks over lapses related to 1MDB, seized assets and jailed bankers over the scandal.