Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak, whose near 10-year rule ended two weeks ago, returned to an anti-graft agency on Thursday to resume his explanation for the suspicious transfers of millions of dollars into his bank account.
Entering the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the embattled 64-year-old Najib appeared relaxed, smiling and waving as he walked through a throng of journalists outside the building. Najib gave the first part of his statement on Tuesday to explain the transfers of 42 million ringgit ($10.6 million) into his bank account that investigators tracked back to a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund that he had founded.
The sum represents just a fraction of billions of dollars that went missing from 1MDB in a scandal that was a key reason why voters dumped Najib in an election on May 9. He was defeated by a coalition led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who had quit as prime minister in 2003 after leading Malaysia for 22 years. Mahathir came out of retirement to join the opposition against Najib after becoming convinced that his former protege was corrupt.
The new prime minister has barred Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country, and ordered the anti-graft agency to investigate where 1MDB’s money went.
Mahathir has also accused Najib’s government of understating Malaysia’s national debt, saying the true figure is 1 trillion ringgit ($250 billion), equivalent to 65 percent of the gross domestic product, whereas Najib put the figure at 50.9 percent.
In a late night Facebook post on Wednesday, Najib said Mahathir and his finance minister’s “alarming and confusing” remarks about the country’s debts and 1MDB liabilities “tell half the story” and had caused the stockmarket to fall.
“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 comes first,” he wrote.
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing at 1MDB. Investigators have already searched Najib’s home and several properties, seizing cash, jewellery and luxury items estimated to be worth millions of dollars.The Star newspaper reported on Thursday that the cash found totalled 130 million Malaysian ringgit (nearly $33 million).
The initial focus of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s probe into 1MDB is on transfers of 42 million ringgit from SRC International to Najib’s account. SRC was created in 2011 by Najib’s government to pursue overseas investments in energy resources, and was a unit of 1MDB until it was moved to the finance ministry in 2012.
MACC has been able to track the money trail from SRC more easily because transactions were made through Malaysian entities, whereas most other transfers of 1MDB funds went through foreign banks and companies.