PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been caught in the middle of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, has armed himself with a team of top American lawyers.
Ashcroft Law Firm, headed by former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, has listed Najib as a client on the United States Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) register.
The FARA requires agents representing the interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationship with the foreign government and information about related activities and finances.
In a search by The Star, Najib's name appeared on the FARA register as a "foreign principal", with Ashcroft Law Firm named as the "registrant" in two exhibits dated March 28 and 29 this year.
Also in the document, it disclosed that the services provided by Ashcroft Law Firm was being financed by a "foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal".
It is unclear whether Najib will retain the services of Ashcroft on the issue over the United States Department of Justice's (DoJ) probe into 1MDB.
Wall Street Journal reported last year (2017) that Najib had hired the law firm to advise him on the 1MDB case back in 2016.
The Ashcroft Law Firm also represents the government of Qatar to rebut accusations from US President Donald Trump and its Arab neighbours that it supports terrorism.
The Malaysian Insight reported on Saturday (June 2) that Najib has also hired top American lawyer David Boies.
Boies previously represented the US government in its anti-trust case against Microsoft. He is also defending movie producer Harvey Weinstein against sexual abuse allegations.
Sources told The Malaysian Insight that Najib also allegedly hired prosecutor Matthew Schwartz.
Schwartz was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, and now has a private practice. He has handled several high-profile cases including the investigation of financier Bernie Madoff, who was jailed in 2009 for defrauding investors.
The Malaysian Insight said all of Najib's lawyers are expected to meet him in Kuala Lumpur very soon.
The DoJ launched a criminal probe and filed civil lawsuits seeking to recover about US$1.7 billion (S$2.2 billion) in assets said to have been bought with stolen 1MDB funds.
This followed complaints alleging that more than US$4.5 billion was diverted from 1MDB and laundered through a web of shell companies and bank accounts located in the US and elsewhere.
The "Malaysian Official 1" (MO1) named in the DoJ civil suit, referring to Najib, alleged that he had received at least US$681 million of 1MDB money, though he returned most of it.
Since he was ousted as prime minister after Barisan Nasional lost in the 14th general election, investigations into Najib's involvement in the 1MDB scandal has begun in Malaysia.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has reopened its investigation into former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International, with the anti-graft agency wrapping up their questioning of Najib on May 24.
The MACC is also slated to question Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor on Tuesday.
The DoJ also announced that it would be cooperating with Malaysia in scrutinising all of the 1MDB transactions.