Funds to Najib not donation: Saudi official

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at the opening of the International Conference on Deradicalisation and Countering Violent Extremism in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Jan 25, 2016.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at the opening of the International Conference on Deradicalisation and Countering Violent Extremism in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Jan 25, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Money for investment was from private citizen, says minister; A-G reiterates it was from a royal

PETALING JAYA • The funds deposited into Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal account were meant to be an investment rather than a political donation, according to a Saudi Arabian minister.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he accepted Malaysian Attorney-General Apandi Ali's opinion issued on Jan 26 that there had been no wrongdoing in the transaction, but he did not think the money had come from the Saudi government or that it was a political donation.

"It was a private Saudi citizen, I believe, and the funds went to an investment in Malaysia," he said in an interview with The New York Times last Thursday.

The paper also quoted one member of the royal family and one associate of the family, speaking on condition of anonymity, who said that the money had come from a Saudi prince and confirmed that it was not a donation.

The associate questioned the reported sum but said the funds were part of a business deal.

Mr Apandi revealed yesterday that a son of a late Saudi king was the source of the US$681 million (S$956 million) deposited in Datuk Seri Najib's bank account, insisting it was a donation. "We know his (the donor's) name. He is not a late Saudi king, but a son of the king. He is still alive," the top prosecutor was quoted as saying by Sin Chew Daily in an exclusive interview.

Mr Apandi also insisted that the motive behind the donation was not important. "Why are people asking for the reason for the donation? You have to ask the donor. He has billions in his coffers. (If) he wanted to give the money, what's the problem?," he asked

"This is his money and his personal matter. We don't have the law to state receiving political donation is illegal," added Mr Apandi.

Earlier, Mr Apandi had said Mr Najib had returned US$620 million of the donation in August 2013 because it was not used.

He did not say how or to whom the money was returned, nor what Mr Najib did with the remaining US$61 million. He subsequently instructed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to cease investigations and close the case. The anti-graft body said it would be referring this decision to two independent review panels.

NEW YORK TIMES, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Funds to Najib not donation: Saudi official'. Print Edition | Subscribe