The US$700 million (S$960 million) allegedly deposited into Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank accounts came from donations and not from debt-laden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the country's anti-graft agency said yesterday.
But former premier Mahathir Mohamad was quick to refute claims that it was Umno practice for its presidents to hold the ruling party's money in their personal accounts. Tun Dr Mahathir, who was Umno president and the country's prime minister for 22 years until 2003, said that the party's funds were held by three trustees, including its president, who were "empowered to take care of the headquarters' account and sign cheques when withdrawing money".
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said yesterday it had handed over results of its investigations into the alleged money received by Datuk Seri Najib to the Attorney-General.
The investigations found that the US$700 million alleged to have been deposited into the accounts of Mr Najib "were contributions from donors, not from 1MDB funds", it said in a statement.
A spokesman for the MACC, speaking to The Straits Times, confirmed the money did enter Mr Najib's accounts, which have since been closed, "but we have not found any evidence it came from 1MDB or any gratification received by the donors".
The Wall Street Journal and London-based Sarawak Report website on July 3 alleged that money linked to 1MDB was deposited into accounts bearing Mr Najib's name over the past two years. Mr Najib has denied using state funds for personal gain, but not receiving the money or owning the accounts.
Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition's strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan has claimed that it is not unusual to require huge amounts of funding to run election campaigns and referred to RM1.4 billion (S$500 million) that Dr Mahathir had handed over to his successor,Tun Abdullah Badawi.
But Dr Mahathir pointed out that the money was not held in a personal account and that it required two of three trustees to sign off before money could be disbursed.
"Not even a cent of donated funds for election was deposited in my account. I am prepared that all my personal accounts during the 22 years be examined by people who have no personal interest to confirm my declaration, or otherwise," he wrote in his blog yesterday, adding that the use of more than RM2.5 billion would violate electoral law.
Prominent civil activist Ambiga Sreenevasan wanted to know who donated "such large sums" and what the donors' agenda was.
In its statement, the MACC said it was still investigating SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary named as part of a money trail that saw an alleged RM42 million deposited into Mr Najib's accounts.
It came as the MACC's special operations chief Bahri Mohamad Zin was being interviewed by police at the commission's headquarters.
Last weekend, police arrested three people linked to a high-level Special Task Force probing 1MDB in relation to alleged leaks of confidential investigation papers. The trio included a former MACC adviser and a deputy public prosecutor seconded to the anti-graft body.
The Special Task Force, comprising the MACC, Attorney-General, central bank and police, had raided offices including the 1MDB headquarters and arrested at least five people since July 3.
Since the Attorney-General was replaced as part of sweeping changes to the Najib administration on July 28, investigations have focused instead on claimed data leaks, including a purported charge sheet accusing the Premier of corruption.
Although the police and Attorney-General insisted no such charge sheet was being prepared by the public prosecutor, MACC's Datuk Bahri indicated yesterday that the "charge sheet was leaked" and that the arrest of MACC's deputy public prosecutor was due to orders from above.
"I am wholeheartedly confident that it wasn't from us. Maybe it was reproduced from the original charge. Our DPP was suddenly taken at 1am... The police would not do such a crazy thing unless someone ordered it," he said, without elaborating.
A parliamentary probe into 1MDB has also stalled after the bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told to halt its work as four of its members, including chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed, were appointed to the Cabinet.
1MDB yesterday said it would await new dates for its top executives to appear before the PAC. The hearings were to have begun today.