FORMER Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak could face charges of money laundering and misappropriation of property for his involvement in the scandal-hit state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a source close to the authorities investigating the matter told Reuters.
Najib has been the subject of the investigation since he was ousted as PM in a shock May 9 election that saw his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lose out to Pakatan Harapan for the first time in over 60 years.
Allegations of money laundering and corruption plagued the former-PM in the last years of his rule after reports that millions of dollars made their way into his personal bank accounts from the fund and its former subsidiary, SRC International. Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to fund.
Newly elected prime minister Mahathir Mohamad made the 1MDB scandal a key pillar of his election campaign, vowing to bring back funds allegedly siphoned off and punish those responsible.
Malaysia’s new Attorney General Tommy Thomas said on Tuesday his office was studying possible criminal and civil action, after receiving investigation papers on 1MDB from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
A source close to the investigations told Reuters Najib may be charged with dishonest misappropriation of property under the Malaysian Penal Code. The source declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak on the matter.
The offence carries a maximum jail sentence of five years, a fine and whipping. The law, however, forbids men over the age of 50 years from being whipped.
Any fine would be decided by the court depending on the offence and amount misappropriated.
According to the source, Najib may also face money laundering charges, which would carry a maximum sentence of 15 years’ jail and a fine of no less than five times the value of the laundered proceeds.
It is now up to the attorney-general to decide whether or not to accept the recommendations, file different charges or call for further investigations. The previous attorney general cleared Najib of wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB.
MACC and the attorney-general’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Najib’s spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. Najib said this week that if he was charged on “political grounds” he was confident the courts would find him innocent.
1MDB is the subject of money-laundering probes globally, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
The US Department of Justice has alleged more than US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, about $700 million of which ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts.
Police on Monday raided another house linked to Najib in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, the latest premise to be searched in connection with their investigation into 1MDB.
Authorities seized hundreds of luxury handbags and dozens of other bags filled with jewellery and cash in earlier searches of premises linked to Najib.
MACC this week called on four individuals to assist in its probe of 1MDB, including an aide to Jho Low – a central figure in the 1MDB scandal closely linked to Najib and his family.
Additional reporting by Reuters.