Malaysia's graftbusters refer Najib case to special review panel

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak was cleared of corruption on Jan 26, 2016.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak was cleared of corruption on Jan 26, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's graftbusters are refusing to close their probe on the US$700 million (S$999 million) received by Datuk Seri Najib Razak, defying the Prime Minister's call to "move on" and instead presenting the public prosecutor's instruction to drop the case to a special review panel that is authorised to seek further action.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said in a brief statement it would "table the Attorney-General's decision to the Operations Review Panel (PPO), an independent body formed by the government to monitor MACC's progress... for evaluation and consideration as well as another special panel that will be appointed".

By law, the PPO is empowered to offer its recommendation on cases that the public prosecutor has decided not to bring to court. The MACC did not give further details on the other panel to be formed. Attorney-General Apandi Ali cleared Prime Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday (Jan 26) of corruption in the multi-million-dollar case that has led to calls for the PM to resign.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the money had come via companies linked to troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

He told a press conference on Tuesday that US$681 million (S$972 million) deposited into Mr Najib's private bank accounts was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family and that based on MACC evidence, the money, deposited just prior to the May 5, 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 did not say why the donation was given in the first place and what Mr Najib, who is also Finance Minister, did with the US$61 (S$87) million. Referring to another sum of RM42 million (S$14.12 million) that was deposited into Mr Najib's personal account, Tan Sri Apandi said that it came from SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary that now comes under the Finance Ministry.

He said the "MACC itself admitted" there is "no evidence from the witnesses that could show that PM had committed any act of corrupt practice".

Mr Najib on Tuesday welcomed the A-G's statement, declaring that "it is time for us to unite and move on" now that the issue "has been comprehensively put to rest".

The PM, who is also 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 the party.