PKR sues Najib over funds in his accounts, citing election law violations

Nurul Izzah Anwar, PKR's vice-president.
Nurul Izzah Anwar, PKR's vice-president. PHOTO: CHINA PRESS

Malaysia's opposition is suing Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Election Commission on claims the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) violated election funding limits in the 2013 national polls after it was reported that the Malaysian leader received RM2.6 billion (S$916 million) in his personal accounts purportedly for his party Umno.

The premier and Umno have tried to justify the money - most of which was received just weeks before the May 2013 general election - as donations for political funding, but key coalition partner Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has insisted it is not the convention to receive such money in the personal accounts of party leaders. 

The opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) filed a suit yesterday against Datuk Seri Najib, BN's secretary-general Tengku Adnan Mansor, state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the Election Commission (EC) at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, saying the RM2.6 billion was more than 26 times over the cumulative spending cap for the 222 parliamentary and 505 state assembly seats contested. The funds were alleged to have come from 1MDB.

"The facts of the case will expose various bribes and corrupt tactics used by BN to gain victory in the 13th General Election," alleged PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, who added that the suit will seek to nullify the entire general election and for a revote to be held.

Ms Nurul said in a statement that the "EC is complicit in a conspiracy to centralise power in BN's hands unconstitutionally" as the electoral authority has in the past said it had no powers to investigate claims of electoral fraud. A previous petition by the opposition to strike out the results of GE13 due to so-called indelible ink washing off voters' fingers was dismissed by the courts.

The spending limit for a parliamentary candidate is RM200,000 and RM100,000 for a state seat candidate. Although Umno has said the sum received by Mr Najib was for political funding, it has not clarified how much of it was spent in the GE13 campaign.

The suit was described as "stupid" by Culture And Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz, who said PKR had to prove BN candidates overspent during the campaign period between April 20 and May 5, 2013. "Even if they spend RM10 million after or before the elections, let them be," he said at a press briefing yesterday.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had cleared US$681 million (S$956 million) that entered Mr Najib's accounts in 2013 as "donations from the Middle East" while Mr Najib has said the funds were not a "bribe" but for party use.

But in comments to Chinese newspaper Oriental Daily, MCA secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan dismissed the claim by both his Umno counterpart Datuk Adnan and Mr Najib that it was the convention to place political funds in the private account of the party president.

"If the (money goes into) a personal account, it is beyond our control then. If the account holder denies it, what can you do?" the Second International Trade and Investment Minister was quoted as saying.

The Edge Media Group will also find out tomorrow if it will gain a stay order against a three-month ban of its business newspapers imposed after their reports on the 1MDB financial scandal.

But the Public Accounts Committee's inquiry into 1MDB will remain frozen for now, after the Cabinet decided not to hold a special parliamentary sitting to appoint replacements for four members co-opted into the Cabinet in a July 28 reshuffle. A new chairman will be elected when Parliament sits in October, a government statement yesterday said.

Police said yesterday they will allow electoral watchdog Bersih's overnight rally on Aug 29, but warned they would "intervene" if the rally became seditious.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'PKR sues Najib over funds in his accounts, citing election law violations'. Print Edition | Subscribe