30 July 2016
Standing alongside Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail in Putrajaya last week, Malaysian Premier Najib Razak cut a confident figure.
There was no hint of the political storm to come a day later, when the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit to seize more than US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) in assets bought with money it said was embezzled from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) — a brainchild of Mr Najib — by people close to him.
The money was moved around the world using secretive shell companies to mask its trail, the DOJ said, naming Mr Najib’s stepson, Mr Riza Aziz, in the suit along with financier Jho Low, a longtime friend of Mr Aziz and his family.
A day later, Singaporean authorities announced that they had seized bank accounts and properties worth S$240 million in a probe on possible money laundering linked to the fund.
Both the US lawsuit and Singapore’s actions were part of a series of ongoing international probes into 1MDB. As investigations are ongoing and no one has been charged, it is too early to say how or whether they will affect Mr Najib.
… “In this sense, it is less about the people’s approval of Najib, but rather each election has a specific context for BN’s victory,” said Mr Rashaad Ali, a research analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ Malaysia Programme. “Nevertheless, Najib has used the results to boost his own image and popularity alongside that of Umno, and I think that has worked. It didn’t help that the opposition referred to these elections as a referendum against Najib.”
IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 01/08/2016