Malaysian ex-PM quizzed for second time over graft claims

Putrajaya (Malaysia) (AFP) –


Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak arrived at the anti-graft agency Thursday to be questioned for a second time this week over a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal following his shock election loss.

Najib's coalition suffered a defeat at the May 9 poll which ended their six-decade hold on power, beaten by a reformist alliance led by Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir, who first served as premier from 1981-2003 and came out of retirement aged 92 to take on Najib, campaigned on claims that the former leader and his cronies looted sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the fund in a sophisticated fraud, and used to buy everything from artworks to high-end real estate.

Since Najib's ouster, police have seized cash reportedly amounting to at least $25 million, plus jewels and handbags in raids on properties linked to him and his unpopular wife.

Najib pushed through a huge media scrum at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters in the administrative capital of Putrajaya as he arrived to be quizzed about 1MDB money allegedly ending up in his personal bank accounts.

He smiled and waved at journalists as he went into the building. He had already been questioned at the agency for over four hours on Tuesday.

Najib is being probed by the anti-corruption body over SRC International, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB.

- Massive fraud -

According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, 42 million ringgit ($10.6 million) originating from SRC was transferred to Najib's personal bank accounts, just one small part of the graft scandal.

Hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB allegedly ended up in Najib's accounts but the ex-leader and the investment vehicle have denied any wrongdoing.

The US Department of Justice alleges that at least $4.5 billion was looted from the fund, and is seeking to seize assets worth $1.7 billion in the US which it says were bought with stolen money.

Mahathir has vowed to fully investigate the scandal.

After holding meetings with key figures from 1MDB Wednesday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the fund was insolvent and its chief was "utterly dishonest".

Najib has sought to mount a fightback in recent days, insisting he has not stolen public money and attacking the new government.

In a Facebook post late Wednesday, he accused the new prime minister and finance minister of causing the stock market to fall by saying that the country's national debt was huge.

"While you may want to slander and put all the blame on me to give a perception of a dire financial position... you must remember that the country and our people comes first," he wrote.

"Words spoken while in such positions of power result in actual losses to the country and the people."

Xavier Justo, a former executive from a company allegedly involved in corrupt deals with 1MDB, was seen arriving at the anti-graft agency Thursday before Najib.

The Swiss national is believed to have leaked documents related to the scandal to the media. He was jailed in Thailand for attempting to blackmail his former employer but was released in 2016.