KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia appointed a new chief of its anti-graft agency on Friday (July 29), replacing a previous head who stepped down two years before his term ended amid a high-profile graft investigation linked to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The government said in a statement that Mr Dzulkifli Ahmad would be the new chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) from Aug 1.
He was previously at the office of Attorney-General Apandi Ali, who cleared Datuk Seri Najib of any criminal offences in 1MDB cases in January. Critics have questioned the decision to clear the Prime Minister.
Mr Dzulkifli had been touted as a possible successor for weeks before the announcement, despite calls by anti-corruption groups and civil rights organisations to appoint a leader from within MACC, on the grounds that would be more conducive to maintaining its integrity.
The MACC has led investigations into allegations of graft and financial mismanagement at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the transfer of RM2.6 billion to Mr Najib's personal bank accounts. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The multibillion-dollar scandal has shaken investors in South-east Asia's third-biggest economy and dented confidence in Najib's ruling coalition.
This month, the United States Justice Department filed civil lawsuits seeking to seize more than US$1 billion of assets allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB, saying they were part of "an international conspiracy to launder money".
The lawsuits do not name Mr Najib, but refer to a high-ranking government official who received more than US$700 million of the misappropriated funds.
A source familiar with the investigations told Reuters the official, identified in the lawsuits as "Malaysian Official 1", was Mr Najib.
The previous MACC chief, Abu Kassim Mohamed, asked for his contract to be terminated earlier than expected but insisted that there was no pressure on him to step down.
Najib was widely criticised last year after the government replaced Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, who had led investigations into 1MDB, with Mr Apandi.
It cited Mr Patail's failing health for the change ahead of his retirement.