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Time's up for Najib?
Published on: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Kuala Lumpur: Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is due to give a statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, today (Tuesday), on what he knew about RM42 million that was transferred into his bank account from a unit of 1MDB.

Both Najib and wife, Rosmah Mansor have been barred from leaving the country, while their home and other properties have been searched.

Finding out what happened to billions of dollars that went missing from 1MDB is a priority for Dr Mahathir Mohamad, following his return from retirement to join the opposition to topple his former protege.

New MACC chief Mohd Shukri Abdull told reporters to expect a "special briefing".

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing related to 1MDB since the scandal erupted in 2015, but he replaced the attorney-general and several MACC officers to shut down an investigation.

Najib has said US$681 million of funds deposited in his personal bank account were a donation from a Saudi royal, rebutting reports that the funds came from 1MDB.

Now answering to a different prime minister, MACC has reopened its investigation, initially focusing on how RM42 million went from SRC International to Najib's account. SRC was created in 2011 by Najib's government to pursue overseas investments in energy resources, and was a unit of 1MDB until it was moved to the finance ministry in 2012.

Mahathir's office also announced the establishment of a new task force made up of members of the anti-graft agency, police and Bank Negara, which would liaise with "enforcement agencies in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada and other related countries" investigating 1MDB.

The US Department of Justice refers to Najib as "Malaysian Official Number 1" in its anti-kleptocracy investigation into 1MDB.

Addressing loyalists in his home state of Pahang on Sunday, Najib declared: "I did not steal from the people".

He said the chorus of allegations was a smear campaign aimed at ruining Umno, the party that until now has led every government since Malaysia's independence six decades ago.

Police were filmed taking away at least 284 boxes of potential evidence, notably jewellery, cash, designer clothes and accessories. The publicity given to the search prompted Rosmah to issue a statement through her lawyers complaining of the danger of a "premature public trial".

Speaking to staff at the Prime Minister's Office on Monday, Mahathir counted the cost of his predecessor's alleged misgovernance.

"We find that the country's finances, for example, was abused in a way that now we are facing trouble settling debts that have risen to a trillion ringgit," he said.

The previous evening, Mahathir met Xavier Justo, a Swiss national who was the first whistleblower in the 1MDB affair. Justo posted a photograph of himself with Mahathir on his Facebook account.

It was documents leaked by Justo, a former director of energy group PetroSaudi International, which ran an energy joint venture with 1MDB from 2009 to 2012, that triggered investigations in at least six countries.

Justo was sentenced to three years in prison in Thailand in 2015 on charges of blackmail and attempted extortion after what he now says was a confession made under pressure. He was freed in an amnesty in 2016.

SRC came into focus after The Wall Street Journal reported that funds from the company were transferred using multiple companies as fronts, before eventually reaching Najib's account.

As these funds were moved through Malaysian, rather than foreign, financial institutions it was easier for MACC investigators to establish the money trail.

Meanwhile, Commercial Crime Investigations Department (CCID) policemen literally have their hands full counting the cash in various currencies seized from apartments in Pavilion Residences on Friday.

As of 3.30pm, CCID police have yet to finish the counting the cash, most of which were contained in 72 bags found in one of the apartments, belonging to a "Tan Sri" said to be a close associate of Najib, at the department's headquarters in Menara 238 in Jalan Tun Razak.

The other two units in the luxury apartment complex are said to belong to Najib's family members.

The process is especially tedious because CCID policemen need to record the serial number of each note.

Another factor adding to the length of time needed to complete the process was the fact that there are several different currencies involved.

Once the process is completed, the money will be taken to federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman before being handed over to Bank Negara Malaysia whether it will be counted again.

It was also learnt that Bank Islam had been engaged to evaluate the jewellery and gold bars which were seized along with the cash.

Federal CCID director Datuk Seri Amar Singh, when contacted, confirmed that the counting process was still being done, but declined to elaborate.

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