KUALA LUMPUR • Senior Umno leaders are calling for a probe into the family wealth of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, after the former Malaysian premier alleged last week that Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had accumulated RM230 million in the 1990s.
According to the Malay Mail Online, Defence Minister and Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein said yesterday that Dr Mahathir - now an opposition leader and vocal government critic - and his family should be investigated over the riches accumulated by them during his 22 years in power.
This call was echoed by Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz, who also came to Mr Ahmad Zahid's defence.
"The Deputy Prime Minister got his wealth when he gave up his position as a political secretary, and concentrated on his business," he told reporters, according to news site The Star.
"But even then, his wealth did not reach RM230 million. If others can become rich in carrying out businesses, what is wrong if he did so."
Dr Mahathir had claimed in a video posted on Facebook last Monday that Mr Ahmad Zahid had told him in 1996 that he had RM230 million in his bank account.
He also claimed in the same video that shortly after becoming deputy prime minister, Mr Ahmad Zahid had wanted to replace Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister and sought Dr Mahathir's blessings to do so.
Mr Ahmad Zahid has denied both allegations, and offered himself up for investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
"At the same time, I hope MACC will also investigate his (Dr Mahathir's) assets and the wealth of his family," he was reported as saying last Saturday by news agency Bernama.
Both Datuk Seri Hishamuddin and Datuk Seri Nazri took a similar tack yesterday, saying that if Mr Ahmad Zahid was willing to be investigated, then "the complainant", a reference to Dr Mahathir, should not be spared a similar probe.
Both the ruling administration and the opposition have recently stepped up efforts to close ranks and ramp up attacks against each other as the country moves closer to the next general election that must be called by August next year.
Dr Mahathir faces a royal commission of inquiry into foreign exchange losses incurred at the central bank during his leadership, while Prime Minister Najib faces renewed calls for an inquiry into the embattled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.