Mahathir sues Najib over money in bank

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad at his office in Kuala Lumpur in 2013.
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad at his office in Kuala Lumpur in 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Hundreds of millions of dollars that ended up in the personal bank accounts of Malaysia's prime minister must be handed to the government, a lawsuit filed by his predecessor demanded yesterday.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has been under fire for months over allegations that perhaps billions of dollars were stolen from a state investment company he founded, and his own admitted acceptance of a mysterious US$681 million (S$931 million) overseas payment.

Both Datuk Seri Najib and the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) strongly deny any wrongdoing and reject accusations that the money paid directly into his personal accounts in 2013 involved 1MDB funds.

The suit by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad demands that Mr Najib compensate the Malaysian government for the US$681 million, according to a copy of the complaint.

The former leader also accused Mr Najib of abusing his position "to undermine, subvert and compromise the various respective institutions" investigating the scandals.

It remains to be seen whether the case will have any effect against Mr Najib, who has taken a number of heavily criticised steps to tamp down the affair.

These included sacking Cabinet members, including his deputy prime minister who had called for transparency, and replacing Malaysia's attorney-general with an appointee who halted his predecessor's investigations.

Dr Mahathir's lawyer, Mr Haniff Khatri, told Reuters it would take three months for the court to decide if the case would be heard.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's central bank said yesterday it would pursue administrative action against 1MDB after the state fund failed to provide documents on its finances abroad.

Bank Negara Malaysia had requested the documents after 1MDB failed a directive to repatriate a total of US$1.8 billion from its accounts overseas.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'Mahathir sues Najib over money in bank'. Print Edition | Subscribe