KUALA LUMPUR - Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail has been removed as Malaysia's Attorney-General due to ill health, a development that comes in the midst of a high-profile probe led by Gani on troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) which has also put allegations against Prime Minister Najib Razak in the spotlight.
In an announcement on Tuesday, Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa said Federal Court judge Mohamed Apandi Ali is now the country's top lawyer with immediate effect.
"Gani Patail will continue to serve as Judicial and Legal Services Officer until he reaches the compulsory retirement age on October 6, 2015," he said in a press statement which was released on Tuesday, but dated Monday (July 27).
When contacted by The Straits Times, Gani, who has been battling a kidney ailment for some time now, said: "I can't speak right now, I have matters to sort out".
The shock announcement comes as Prime Minister Najib is battling mounting allegations of abuse of public funds via debt-laden 1MDB, whose advisory board he chairs.
Gani had led a Special Task Force which included the police, anti-graft agency and central bank which began raiding offices and making arrests soon after The Wall Street Journal alleged on July 3 that US$700 million (S$956 million) in 1MDB-linked funds had been deposited in Najib's personal accounts over the past two years. The prime minister has denied ever using state funds for personal gain, but has not clarified whether the money entered his accounts.
Tan Sri Apandi's most prominent case was in 2013 when he led a three-member Court of Appeal bench that ruled unanimously against allowing the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” in its publications to refer to God.
He also headed a three-member Court of Appeal line-up the same year which released two policemen from charges of murdering Mongolian translator Altantuya Shariibuu, who was killed in 2006 in a high-profile case linked to a submarine deal involving a former Najib aide when the latter was Defence Minister.