Malaysia's Attorney-General has cleared Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption in a multimillion-dollar case that has led to calls for the latter to resign.
Attorney-General Apandi Ali said yesterday that the US$681 million (S$974 million) that was deposited into Datuk Seri Najib's personal bank account was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family.
Mr Najib yesterday welcomed the Attorney-General's statement, declaring on the Prime Minister's Office Facebook page that "it is time for us to unite and move on" now that the issue "has been comprehensively put to rest".
The Wall Street Journal said last year that the money had come from firms linked to state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Tan Sri Apandi said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had recorded statements from witnesses, including the donor, and concluded that the money - deposited just prior to the 2013 General Election - was not "given corruptly" and was not used as "inducement or reward" for Mr Najib to do anything in his capacity as Prime Minister.
He said Mr Najib returned US$620 million to the Saudi royals in August 2013. He did not say why the donation was given in the first place and what the Prime Minister did with the remaining US$61 million.
Mr Najib, also Finance Minister and 1MDB's chief adviser, has repeatedly denied using public funds for personal gain. He has told supporters that as Umno president, he is tasked with raising funds for Umno.
Mr Apandi was appointed Attorney-General in July last year after Mr Najib removed his predecessor, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who was leading a high-level probe into the deposit. Referring to another sum of RM42 million (S$14 million) that was deposited into Mr Najib's bank account, Mr Apandi said it came from SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary that now comes under the Finance Ministry.
He said the MACC found no evidence to show Mr Najib had abused his position to obtain the funds, but did not say why the money was deposited into the latter's account.
"Evidence shows that at all material times, the Prime Minister was of the belief that all payments which were made by him were made from the donation received from the Saudi royal family which was earlier transferred to his personal accounts," he said.
How 1MDB saga unfolded
July 3, 2015: News reports surface that nearly US$700 million (S$1 billion) linked to 1MDB, struggling under the weight of RM42 billion (S$14 billion) in debt, was deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal accounts.
July 28: Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, who heads a probe into the alleged 1MDB- linked money, is removed from his post because of "ill health". Datuk Seri Najib fires his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and four other ministers who were critical of the government's handling of the 1MDB saga.
Aug 3: The Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC) says US$681 million in Mr Najib's accounts came from unspecified donors.
Aug 5: MACC confirms for the first time that the money was a donation and the donors were from the Middle East.
Oct 17: The opposition files a no-confidence motion, accusing Mr Najib of abusing his power to block criminal charges over financial scandals.
November/December: 1MDB sells its entire energy division and a controlling stake in a prime development on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, after which its debt - which critics say was raised to cover up billions of ringgit in missing funds - would be negligible.
Jan 26, 2016: Attorney-General Apandi Ali clears Mr Najib of any criminal wrongdoing regarding the US$681 million.