After two gruelling sessions amounting to almost 11 hours, the ousted prime minister of Malaysiasays he has finished answering all the questions put to him by a corruption commission set up by the country’s new government.
NajibRazakemerged once again smiling and waving to reporters on Thursday, even as the new administration of Mahathir Mohamadsaid it had discovered another $50bn of debt liabilities left behind by the previous administration.
Mr Mahathirreturned to the political fold and delivered a shock defeat to Mr Najibin the country’s election two weeks ago, with campaigning dominated by accusations of corruption.
The US has accused Mr Najiband his associates of embezzling around $700mfrom the 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (Ltd) fund, dubbed the 1MDB scandal in Malaysian media reports. Founded by Mr Najib, 1MDBwas supposed to pay for infrastructure projects in Kuala Lumpur and beyond to turn Malaysia into a new financial services hub.
Mr Najib has denied wrongdoing and was cleared by his own attorney general in 2016, though the new head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) this week described how an investigation into 1MDB had been suppressed three years ago to stop charges being brought against him.
The MACChas been questioning the former leader specifically aboutwhy 42 million ringgit ($10.6 million) was transferred into his bank account from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund, using multiple intermediary companies.It represents the domestic side of the 1MDB allegations – investigators say chasing an alleged international money trail will take a lot longer.
Mr Najib and his wife have, in the meantime, been barred from leaving the country.Malaysians are now wondering if charges will be filed – something the new MACCchief has suggested could happen “very soon”.
In betweenMr Najib’s two appearances at the MACC, the new finance minister Lim Guan Eng said the Najibgovernment had committed to making lease payments of 201.4bn ringgit ($50.62bn) for several projects that were designed to circumvent the federal government guarantee and debt limits.
The extra obligations brought Malaysia’s total debt and liabilities to over 1.087 trillion ringgit as of Dec. 31, 2017, or 80.3 per cent of gross domestic product, Mr Lim told reporters.
Earlier this week, Mr Lim said the Najib government had deceived the public and parliament over the country’s finances and 1MDB. He also said treasury officials and the country’s auditor general were unable to access certain accounts and reports.
In a late night Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Najib said Mr Mahathir and his finance minister’s “alarming and confusing” remarks about the country’s debts and 1MDB liabilities “tell half the story”.
As he emerged on Thursday, he appeared relaxed. Smiling, he put a finger to his lips to shush journalists so that he could speak.
“I have answered all questions as best as I could, And MACC has carried out their duties well and professionally,” Mr Najib said, almost exactly what he said after his first visit to the agency two days earlier.
While Mr Najib was giving his seven-hour statement, agents also met Xavier Justo, a Swiss national who was the first whistleblower in the 1MDB affair. It was documents leaked by the former director of energy group PetroSaudi International, which ran an energy joint venture with 1MDB from 2009 to 2012, that triggered investigations in at least six countries.
An anti-graft official, who declined to be identified because the matter is sensitive, said Mr Justo is assisting a taskforce investigating 1MDB but couldn’t give further details. The whistleblower did not speak to reporters himself.
Additional reporting by agencies