Donald Trump plans to meet Malaysian leader Najib Razak in September

President Donald Trump will meet with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in Washington next month, signalling a new phase in bilateral ties between the two countries.
Razak (above) is embroiled in a corruption scandal at home.
Razak (above) is embroiled in a corruption scandal at home.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump plans to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sept 12 at the White House, the White House said on Wednesday (Aug 23).

The US Justice Department has been conducting a criminal probe of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund founded by Najib Razak, which is facing money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

In civil lawsuits, the Justice Department has sought to seize a total of about US$1.7 billion (S$2.3 billion) in assets it says were bought with misappropriated 1MDB funds.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the plan for a meeting, said Najib has been eager to emphasise his friendship with Trump at a time of US scrutiny over alleged corruption in the Malaysian administration.

The Journal quoted people close to Najib as saying he would likely use the White House visit to try to play down the possibility of further investigations.

Trump looks forward to “discussing ways to strengthen and broaden our bilateral relationship and expand regional cooperation with one of America’s closest partners in South-east Asia,” said a White House statement announcing Najib’s Sept 12 visit.

Relations between Malaysia and the United Stated soured last year after the Justice Department filed lawsuits in connection with the 1MDB scandal and Najib sought to strengthen ties with China.

US relations with Malaysia, which the United States sees as an important partner in standing up to China’s extensive territorial claims in East Asia, had improved under former President Barack Obama, who in 2014 became the first US president to visit the country in 50 years.