Malaysia clears PM in scandal, says Saudis provided ‘donation’

Malaysia clears PM in scandal, says Saudis provided ‘donation’

KUALA LUMPUR – Agence France-Presse
Malaysia clears PM in scandal, says Saudis provided ‘donation’

AFP photo

The Saudi royal family was the source of a $681 million “donation” that has engulfed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in scandal, his attorney general said on Jan. 26, clearing the premier of graft allegations.

Mohamed Apandi Ali said a review of evidence compiled by the country’s anti-graft agency showed that the money received in 2013 was a “personal donation from the Saudi royal family,” giving no further details on the source.

He said $620 million was returned to the Saudis a few months later, without specifying why.

Najib, 62, has for months denied accusations that the huge payments into his own bank accounts - just before a hotly contested 2013 general election - was money syphoned from a now-struggling state-owned company he launched.

Until now, however, the precise origin of the funds has not been specified, other than vague claims by Najib’s government that it came from unnamed Middle Eastern donors.

“No criminal offence has been committed by [the prime minster]”, Apandi, who was installed by Najib shortly after the scandal broke last year, said in a statement.

He added that he would instruct authorities to “close” this and related cases.

The fund transfers were revealed last July just as Najib was battling allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars were missing from deals involving the state-owned company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib and 1MDB strenuously deny wrongdoing, or that the $681 million came from 1MDB.

Opposition figures denounced the announcement as part of a broader cover-up.

“This will cause people to ask whether the AG carried out his duty professionally, freely and fairly,” opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail told reporters, according to The Malaysian Insider news site.

Apandi - who has ties to Najib’s ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) - came to office after Najib sacked the previous attorney general, who was investigating the matter. The dismissal drew sharp accusations of interference by Najib.

“(Apandi) has to give an explanation to Malaysians. The AG has to do a lot of convincing,” Wan Azizah said.