Questions over 1MDB trials after Malaysia's political turmoil, Latest World News - The New Paper

Questions over 1MDB trials after Malaysia's political turmoil

This article is more than 12 months old

Some believe Umno's return to power could help former Malaysian PM in his 1MDB court battle

KUALA LUMPUR: Hours after Malaysia's change of leadership over the weekend, former prime minister Najib Razak posted a picture of himself smiling and giving a thumbs up on social media.

It was tagged as a gesture of satisfaction over a restaurant meal, but many Malaysians saw it as a bigger sign of happiness from a man who was driven from office in 2018 and is now on trial for corruption over the multi-billion 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)scandal.

With the return to power of Najib's party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and it therefore being in a position to influence policy, some Malaysians are questioning whether it will affect the handling of the high profile corruption trials.

Some top Umno figures were collectively hit with hundreds of graft charges in the aftermath of their shock defeat in Malaysia's 2018 election, including Najib, who is facing 42 counts of corruption, and party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (87).

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was ousted as prime minister in last week's realignment, accused Najib and his party of engineering the political crisis to help them avoid conviction.

"If Najib can be part of the government now, he can do all sorts of things to free himself," the 94-year-old said on Sunday.

Ms Cynthia Gabriel, director of the Kuala Lumpur-based anti-corruption watchdog C4 Centre, said: "The worst-case scenario is that these grand corruption trials will be dropped through judicial interference and more."

In his first message, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said fighting corruption would be a priority for his government, whose biggest backer in Parliament is Umno.


The US Department of Justice estimates US$4.5 billion (S$6.3 billion) was misappropriated from sovereign fund 1MDB between 2009 and 2014. The US and Malaysian authorities allege that over US$1 billion stolen from 1MDB flowed into Najib's personal bank accounts.

Mr Muhyiddin's office did not respond to a request for comment on what would happen to the trials now.

Najib did not respond to requests for comment but told reporters on Monday that he hoped to continue fighting his case in court.

"We'll go through the court process," he said. "It is the only credible way."

A senior Umno official echoed Najib's sentiments, saying the new government should not interfere in the courts.

"If we interfere by withdrawing cases of those charged, the people would say the government does not respect the law and the judicial body is not independent; so, don't mar that concept," party secretary-general Annuar Musa told state news agency Bernama.

Although Najib was quick to post congratulations to Mr Muhyiddin on social media, their relationship has been strained.

Mr Muhyiddin was fired by Najib as his deputy in 2015 after questioning his handling of 1MDB.

Najib had not been directly involved in coalition talks even if he had tried to encourage Mr Mahathir's downfall from behind the scenes, said one source close to the new prime minister.

"Muhyiddin doesn't want to deal with Najib," the source said.

Workers at the Indian Muslim restaurant where Najib posted his selfie on Sunday said he was in a good mood.

Najib clearly was, as evidenced by his Facebook post later, when he said: "No matter how busy with politics, don't forget to eat first. Love yourself first." - REUTERS