Malaysian ex-minister challenges move not to charge PM Najib

Former Malaysian law minister Zaid Ibrahim challenges attorney general's move not to charge Prime Minister Najib Razak over financial scandal

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Updated Feb 3, 2016

A former Malaysian law minister filed a legal suit Tuesday challenging a decision by the country's attorney general not to prosecute Prime Minister Najib Razak over a financial scandal involving more than $700 million channeled into his private bank accounts.

Zaid Ibrahim said statements by the anti-corruption organisation and other agencies investigating indebted state investment fund 1MDB, which is linked to Najib, indicated "strong evidence of wrongdoing" by the prime minister.

He said the possible offenses included money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

Zaid said Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali's decision last week not to prosecute Najib was "unreasonable and constituted an improper exercise of discretion."

He said he is seeking a judicial review of Apandi's decision. He also wants the court to rule that Apandi's order to the anti-corruption agency to close its files on the investigation was beyond his scope of power.

The agency has separately appealed to an independent government panel against Apandi's decision.

Zaid dismissed a Cabinet minister's warning that the attorney general's decision is final and cannot be challenged.

"I am rightfully concerned about the dire consequences to the rule of law in this country if the decision of one man cannot be questioned regardless of the facts and the circumstances of the case," Zaid said in a statement.

Government officials couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

1MDB is mired in 42 billion ringgit ($10.1 billion) in debt and has been selling its assets to clear its books. Najib, who formed 1MDB in 2009, became embroiled in the scandal after documents were leaked last year suggesting that money deposited into his accounts may have come from entities linked to 1MDB.

Apandi said much of the money was a private donation from the Saudi royal family and that Najib had returned most of it.

However, external investigations into 1MDB indicated that $4 billion earmarked for investment in economic and social development projects in Malaysia may have been misappropriated from state-owned companies.

Switzerland's top prosecutor has sought Malaysia's help after a Swiss investigation confirmed some money was transferred into accounts held in Switzerland by various former Malaysian public officials and former and current public officials from the United Arab Emirates.

The Swiss office said last week that criminal proceedings were opened last August against two former 1MDB officials and unknown individuals on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.

Singapore also announced on Monday that it has seized a large number of bank accounts in a probe into "possible money laundering and other offenses" related to 1MDB. Two Singapore agencies said they are working closely with authorities in Malaysia, Switzerland and the United States in the investigation.

TRTWorld, AP