Najib says he’s ‘lucky’ to avoid sodomy rap as Malaysia opens fresh probes into 1MDB
- Embattled former PM is facing three separate investigations – from Malaysia’s parliament, anti-corruption authority, and police
- Najib has made sarcastic Facebook post referencing PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim’s multiple sodomy charges
Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s trial for his alleged links to the 1MDB financial scandal is just over two months away, but he is facing a painful crawl towards his day in court as authorities continue to open fresh probes to find out the full extent of his involvement in the case.
On Monday, the embattled leader was furiously pushing back against newly opened investigations into claims he had directed the tampering of an audit report into 1MDB – the state fund he founded from which prosecutors say some US$4.5 billion was looted during his nine-year tenure.
The matter is being independently investigated by a select committee in the parliament controlled by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), while the country’s police on Monday also started a separate probe.
The MACC said in a statement that it would parse the differences between two versions of the audit report: the one submitted to Najib, and another one with amendments.
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The decision to probe the matter came after auditor general Madinah Mohamad revealed on Saturday that there had been major discrepancies between the two versions, including the deletion of sections that mentioned the presence of financier Low Taek Jho – also known as Jho Low – at key 1MDB meetings.
An associate of Najib, Low is a fugitive with arrest warrants in Singapore and Malaysia for his alleged involvement in the 1MDB financial scandal.
Low says he committed no wrongdoing but has refused to submit himself in person to investigations in these countries. Reports have said he is currently in China.
The changes in the audit reports, Madinah said, were ordered by Najib’s then-principal private secretary Shukry Salleh over purported concerns its contents would be “twisted” by the opposition – now the ruling coalition.
Following Saturday’s reveal by Madinah, Shukry was sacked on Monday as chairman of the government-linked Bank Rakyat.
Separately, Najib, Shukry, and other senior officials from the administration ousted in the May 9 election by Mahathir have been summoned to testify before the parliamentary public accounts committee.
Najib, however, is not sitting still after the latest twist in the 1MDB saga, branded by some observers as the world biggest-ever financial scandal.
On Sunday night, the former premier’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah – himself facing criminal charges of corruption and tax evasion – slammed Madinah for her public revelations about the audit report.
He questioned the motivation behind her publicising the information, which had been presented to Mahathir’s cabinet on Friday.
Shafee said the reveal was merely an attempt to influence public opinion and discredit Najib ahead of his trial.
Najib, meanwhile, sarcastically noted on Facebook that he was “lucky” to not be charged with sodomy, a reference to democracy icon Anwar Ibrahim’s two stints in prison after being found guilty of sodomy – both charges believed to trumped up by the government at the time.
Said the former prime minister: “It is very clear that the Pakatan Harapan government is using all the power in the government, agencies and media to influence the people’s thoughts to tarnish my name even though the 1MDB case is awaiting trial in court.”
Local media, too, has weighed in, with financial daily The Edge’s owner Tong Kooi Ong penning a commentary claiming that Najib kicked him out of a one-on-one meeting after Tong brought up Low’s wrongdoing.
“Najib knew what Jho Low did. We provided the evidence and he shut us down to shut us up,” he wrote.
The Edge had its publishing permits suspended by the Najib administration in 2015 for its investigations into the 1MDB scandal.