Authorities investigating scandal-hit state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) are considering charging former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with money laundering and misappropriation of property, a source familiar with the matter said.
Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, is the subject of a money laundering and corruption probe, after reports that millions of dollars made their way into his personal bank accounts from the fund and its former subsidiary, SRC International.
The former premier has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB.
Najib, 64, suffered a shock loss in the May 9 general election, the first change of government since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was elected prime minister, has vowed to bring back funds allegedly siphoned from 1MDB and punish those responsible.
Malaysia’s new Attorney General Tommy Thomas said on Tuesday (June 12) his office was studying possible criminal and civil action, after receiving the 1MDB investigation papers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
A source close to the investigations told Reuters that 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.
The MACC and the Attorney General’s office did not respond to requests for comment, and neither did Najib’s spokesman.
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$4.5bil (RM17.93bil) was misappropriated from 1MDB, about US$700mil (RM2.6.78bil) of which ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts.
Police on Monday (June 11) raided another house linked to Najib in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, the latest premises 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 Low Taek Jho, popularly known as Jho Low, a central figure in the 1MDB scandal closely linked to Najib and his family. – Reuters