The motives of Malaysia ’s anti-corruption body have been called into question after it revealed it was investigating the high-profile judge who presided over the 2020 conviction of the country’s ex-leader Najib Razak , in the first of several 1MDB -linked cases. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation appeared to contravene the separation of powers in Malaysia and “undermines the independence of the judiciary”, the country’s Bar Council said. MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki said on Saturday that the agency had “started our investigation” into Court of Appeal Judge Nazlan Ghazali, without offering further details, according to a report in The Star newspaper. Azam was quoted as saying the investigation was initiated because “there were reports lodged”. Days earlier, Raja Petra Kamarudin, a Britain-based blogger, wrote on the Malaysia Today website that Nazlan – who oversaw Najib’s case in the High Court – was being investigated for having an “unexplained” 1 million ringgit (USD$231,000) in a personal bank account. Nazlan, who was promoted to the Court of Appeal in February, has filed a police report, saying Kamarudin’s post was malicious, baseless and aimed at tarnishing his credibility as a judge. He has previously been the subject of smear campaigns, including one that falsely suggested he was a son-in-law of Mahathir Mohamad , the two-time prime minister who defeated Najib in 2018 polls. Will Roger Ng’s US conviction in 1MDB trial finally dent Najib’s popularity? Najib was charged with 42 offences linking him with the multibillion dollar 1MDB scandal during his former mentor Mahathir’s latest stint in power from 2018-2020. Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, president of the Malaysian Bar, dismissed the MACC’s assertion that the investigation and its decision to make it public were part of bureaucratic processes. She said in a statement that the country’s judiciary was in no position to defend itself, and therefore needed the Bar to “protect the dignity and integrity of the courts and the judiciary as a whole, considering the nature of the office has always been defenceless to criticisms or wild allegations made by irresponsible parties”. “We have seen such wild attempts to hurt lawyers, members of the public as well as the judiciary as an institution, and now specific judges,” Cheah said. Also weighing in on the unusual nature of the MACC’s revelation about the investigation was opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The 74-year-old said the anti-corruption agency’s action risked undermining efforts to repair the judiciary’s image. Its independence has been periodically called into question in the past. “It is feared that such pronouncements will be seen as political pressure and meddling,” said Anwar, who in the last two decades has served two jail sentences for sodomy – convictions that he and rights groups say were politically motivated. Since the 2018 election and 2019 appointment of current chief justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, the judiciary’s reputation has improved. Malaysia 1MDB scandal: a guide to the key figures from Roger Ng’s trial Nazlan, in particular, gained plaudits for convicting Najib despite commentators’ earlier suggestions that the politician’s clout would see him being let off easily. After Nazlan’s conviction of Najib in the High Court in 2020, the Court of Appeal, Malaysia ’s second highest court, upheld the verdict in December last year. The higher court described the case as a “national embarrassment”. Also attracting attention in the wake of the saga was Kamarudin, the Britain-based blogger. Known to many by his initials RPK, the former Anwar supporter now backs Umno, the powerful Malay nationalist party. Umno has been the country’s main political force for decades. It and Najib were booted out in 2018 polls, but in 2020, the party returned to government after Mahathir’s administration collapsed following an internal coup. Kamaruddin’s April 20 article about Judge Nazlan was widely shared by Najib’s supporters. While RPK and his blog have a known pro-Najib bias, the MACC’s apparent confirmation of the blogger’s allegation was described by opposition lawmaker Kelvin Yii as a gift to the former prime minister’s camp. “Whether there is even any shred of evidence to the allegations, all they need is such a news headline to play up the issue in an attempt to play Najib as a victim,” Yii said. He added that this could also be an attempt to send “a message” to the other judges presiding over Najib’s 1MDB cases. Malaysia’s ‘Azamgate’ escalates as securities regulator contradicts anti-graft chief Lawyer Edward Kuruvilla similarly cautioned that the attack on the judiciary posed questions over the ability of judges to discharge their duties. “How can a judge be expected to discharge his or her duties without fear or favour when they too can be a target of political persecution and oppression?” he said. Social media users, meanwhile, said that the MACC should have kept such a delicate matter private until an exhaustive investigation was completed. Opposition lawmaker Lim Guan Eng, himself facing corruption charges, asked why the MACC failed to immediately open an investigation into Azam, its chief, over allegations of improper stock trading. Despite widespread calls from the public and civil society for an open investigation, the MACC later said it had arrived at the decision that there was no breach of the law. Lim, finance minister from 2018-2020 under Mahathir, questioned why no legal action was being taken against Kamarudin despite his track record of spurious allegations. “Even though he is hiding in London, he should be asked to return to subject himself to be thoroughly investigated,” said Lim, adding that an extradition order against the blogger should be being considered. Najib, who is currently on bail following his 2020 conviction – and who is facing other court trials linking him to the 1MDB scandal – has so far not commented on the saga.