OPPOSITION politicians in Malaysia are calling on Prime Minister Najib Razak to take a leave of absence and be held accountable following the move by U.S. officials to seize more than $1 billion in assets that were alleged to have been acquired using stolen money from a state investment fund.
The fund, known as 1MDB, was created in 2009 by Najib to promote economic development projects. Instead, U.S. prosecutors said fund officials diverted more than $3.5 billion through a web of shell companies and bank accounts abroad.
Opposition lawmaker Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says Najib must give a full explanation in Parliament, and go on leave to ensure a full and transparent probe.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in a press conference last night, said the U.S. Government is initiating a seizure of assets worth over RM4 billion (US$1 billion) linked with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The department also named several individuals as being involved, including Riza Aziz, who is Najib’s stepson, businessman Jho Low, Khadem Abdulla Al-Qubaisi and Mohammed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny.
Wan Azizah – who is the wife of opposition defacto leader Anwar Ibrahim who is currently imprisoned on sodomy charges – pointed out that the press conference clearly mentioned that this RM4 billion is part of over RM14 billion (US$3.5 billion) which has been identified as being embezzled from 1MDB between 2009 and 2015.
“This timeline coincides and overlaps exactly with the tenure of Najib Razak as Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and Chairman of the 1MDB Board of Advisors,” she said in a statement.
“I hereby call upon Dato’ Sri Najib to swiftly give an explanation and a full account of this matter in an emergency Parliamentary sitting called as soon as possible.”
Najib previously sacked prominent individuals who voiced their concerns on the 1MDB issue, including former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Wan Azizah also called upon the Cabinet to the Malaysian monarch to proclaim the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the claims, and “to suggest the prosecution of those involved in this heinous crime”.
Lawmaker Lim Kit Siang warned Thursday that Malaysia was “careening down the slope to becoming a failed, rogue state.”
Meanwhile the Attorney-General’s chambers in Singapore, the Singapore Police Force Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have seized S$240 million (US$177 million) in assets belonging to various individuals linked with 1MDB.
It said of the bank accounts and properties seized, about S$120 million belong to Jho Low and his immediate family.
Additional reporting by Associated Press