PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The problems surrounding the 1MDB issue would have been less severe had it been tackled years earlier by then premier Najib Razak, says Malaysia MP Anwar Ibrahim.
Datuk Seri Anwar, who leads the biggest party in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance, said he had raised the issue in Parliament in 2010, basing his comments on an audited account of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign fund.
"The fact that sovereign funds were placed in the Cayman Islands is absurd, in my (previous) experience as finance minister. You don't do that," he said in an interview on Hot Ones, a chat show by streaming service iFlix that was aired on Friday (May 10).
Mr Anwar, president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), said the then Barisan Nasional (BN) government had viciously attacked him for bringing up the 1MDB issue. PKR is one of the four parties in PH.
Mr Anwar also claimed this was the reason why he was persecuted and sent to prison in 2015.
He said in the interview: "Had Najib Razak been more responsible, he could have tried to resolve it at that stage - but he did not."
1MDB had debts of RM55 billion (S$18 billion) at one point, and raised billions of dollars in loans that are under investigation.
Malaysian and international investigators have said 1MDB was used as a platform for siphoning off some US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) by former top government officials and their associates.
Najib and several other top officials have been charged with criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering linked to 1MDB and its former subsidiary SRC International. The SRC trial is ongoing in Malaysia.
Mr Anwar said he was shocked at how the alleged 1MDB money was spent, in reference to the valuables seized from Najib's residences last year.
He said that during and after the 2013 General Election, BN leaders continued to defend Najib over 1MDB.
Mr Anwar noted that in 2014, the issue was exposed by international media and was read by everyone outside of Malaysia.
"If Najib was humble enough to acknowledge or at least taken adequate measures, he could have saved not only himself, but also the country," said Mr Anwar.
He said with the media coverage about 1MDB, Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor and others involved should have realised they were in the public spotlight.
"We are not dealing with mediocre guys - they are smart," Mr Anwar said. "But the problem with leaders is when they are arrogant, they consider themselves invincible - (thinking) they will not lose, they will remain in power forever."
Meanwhile, Rosmah was on Friday present at the Sessions Court where a charge against her over a RM5 million bribe on a solar hybrid system project was heard.
She maintained her not-guilty plea after the amended charge was read out before the judge.
Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar told the court that the charge was amended as the prosecution had to amend the address where the alleged offence took place.
According to the charge sheet, Rosmah was accused of receiving the bribe from Jepak Holdings managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin through her aide Rizal Mansor at Seri Perdana, the official residence of the prime minister.
The money was allegedly a reward her for assisting Jepak Holdings obtain the solar project for 369 rural schools in Sarawak worth RM1.25 billion through direct negotiations with the Education Ministry.
If found guilty, she could be jailed for up to 20 years, or fined five times the amount of gratification.
The earlier charge sheet mentioned that the alleged offence took place at her family home in Taman Duta on Dec 20, 2016.