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Malaysia PM refers corruption claims to lawyers

July 5, 2015

Malaysia's Prime Minister has said he will consult lawyers over claims state money was funneled into his personal accounts. It comes as the attorney general confirmed he had seen documents linking Najib with the money.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak
Image: Gatty Images

The Malaysian leader said on Sunday the decision whether he would begin legal proceedings in the wake of the allegations would be made within the coming days.

"I have referred this to my lawyers and they will advise me on the best course of legal action I can take within the country and overseas," Najib told reporters.

On Friday, a report published in "The Wall Street Journal" detailed an investigation showing around $700 million (631 million euros) was moved around several government agencies, banks and other organizations linked to the state 1MDB fund. It eventually finished up in personal accounts belonging to the prime minister. "The Wall Street Journal" stated that in total five deposits were made into accounts belonging to Najib, with the two largest transactions, worth $620 million (558 million euros) and $61 million (55 million euros) respectively, were made in March of 2013, just two months prior to general elections.

1MDB has denied it provided money to Najib. It is the first time a Malaysian leader has faced accusations of criminal wrongdoings.

Late on Saturday, Malaysian Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail announced he had seen papers "including documents related to allegations of fund transfers into the account of the prime minister," seized after a task force raided offices belonging to three companies linked to 1MDB. These could be used as grounds to file criminal charges.

A billboard for the 1MDB Fund (1Malaysia Development Berhad)
Najib has denied the veracity of the "malicious" claimsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Paul

'Political sabotage'

The 1MDB industry development fund was set up by Najib in 2009, and has racked up a debt of 42 billion ringgit ($11.1 billion, 10 billion euros) due to the failure of its overseas energy projects. The scheme's loudest critic has been former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has voiced concerns over the debt as well as 1MDB's alleged lack of transparency. Earlier this year Najib ordered his auditor-general to look into 1MDB's books. The findings have not yet been released.

Najib has condemned "The Wall Street Journal" article as an act of "political sabotage" engineered by Mahathir to have him removed. Mahathir resigned from his post in 2003 after more than two decades in power, but remains a highly influential figure in Malaysia's political scene. He has been leading calls for Najib to step down.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called for an investigation, telling the "Sunday Star" newspaper "this is a very serious allegation that can jeopardize his credibility and integrity as prime minister and leader of the government." Home Minister Zahid Hamidi described the claims as "bordering on criminal offenses," and added that authorities would "not hesitate to use the full force of the law against those who attempt to harm Malaysia's economy and our democratic process."

Meanwhile several opposition MPs have demanded the leader go on leave and declare his assets.

It is not the first time Najib has been linked with allegations of corruption, having faced claims involving family members. The son of a former prime minister, Najib took over the leadership in 2009.

an/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)