PUTRAJAYA - Death threats, missing witnesses and sackings - these were obstacles faced by Malaysia’s anti-graft agency while probing the 1MDB financial scandal in 2015, revealed the agency’s new chief in a dramatic account on Tuesday (May 22).
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull spoke emotionally about being ready to face all the consequences, including being dismissed, for attempting to indict former premier Najib Razak in the 1MDB funds misappropriation scandal three years ago.
“We had our own intelligence sources, that I would be arrested and locked up, because I was accused of being part of a conspiracy to bring down the government. I was threatened with being fired, was asked to retire, take leave early, and transfer to the training department... for cold storage,” he said.
He added that a bullet was also sent to his home.
Datuk Seri Shukri - recently reinstated at the agency by the Pakatan Harapan government - was giving his maiden press conference at the agency’s headquarters, just hours after Datuk Seri Najib arrived at the same building for questioning over SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary.
Mr Najib is accused of receiving RM42 million (S$14.1 million) into his personal accounts from the company.
Mr Shukri said plans to indict the former premier in July 2015 were foiled after then Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail was removed from office. He said he fled to Washington soon after.
“There, I got to know that several MACC investigators were arrested and two senior officers were transferred out. I cried like a little baby... We wanted to bring back money that was stolen to our country. Instead, we were accused of bringing down the country, we were accused of being traitors,” Mr Shukri said, briefly shedding tears.
He claimed he was trailed and photographed by some people during his stay in Washington. When he travelled to New York, he asked his friends in the New York Police Department for protection. “They protected me for a week. They provided me with three bodyguards,” he said.
Mr Najib, 65, became embroiled in the 1MDB affair in 2015 after RM2.6 billion allegedly linked to the fund was found in his personal accounts. Mr Najib had said the sum was a donation from the Saudi royal family and was previously cleared of wrongdoing by the Malaysian authorities.
“Our officers went to Saudi (to look for the prince),” said Mr Shukri. “The standard operating procedure is for us to look for our own witnesses. But in this case, the questionable prince was introduced to us by someone. The prince confirmed that the funds were a donation but he couldn’t produce supporting documents,” he said.
Mr Shukri said he and former MACC boss Abu Kassim Mohamed had also urged federal ministers to replace Mr Najib after pursuing its probe against the former premier.
“1MDB and SRC International cases are not make-believe cases. We had urged the former government to replace Najib with (then deputy prime minister) Ahmad Zahid Hamidi or (then defence minister) Hishammuddin Hussein but out of all the ministers we approached, only three spoke up,” he said. The three were Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Shafie Apfdal and Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah.
“When our attempt to convince the ministers were unsuccessful, we... met with the Council of Rulers twice but to no avail,” he said.
Asked how he felt about relaunching the investigation into SRC International, Mr Shukri said: “We must respect our former PM. I’m telling you to let the law take its own course... I’m not going to seek revenge.”
He added that the findings by the US Department of Justice - which has launched civil suits to recover billions of dollars allegedly siphoned from 1MDB - corroborate those of MACC’s.
At the height of investigations into the fund in 2015, Mr Najib removed several of his detractors from office, including former AG Tan Sri Abdul Ghani and four Cabinet ministers.
MACC, then headed by Tan Sri Abu Kassim, investigated graft allegations and financial mismanagement at the state fund, as well as the transfer of RM2.6 billion into Mr Najib’s bank accounts.
In January 2016, newly-appointed A-G Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Mr Najib of any wrongdoing, saying the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family.
But the MACC persisted in its probe by resubmitting investigation papers over the RM42 million that was also found in Mr Najib’s bank accounts.
Mr Abu Kassim was then removed from his post and was replaced with Dzulkifli Ahmad, a senior official at the Attorney-General’s Chambers. Mr Abu Kassim’s deputy Mustafar Ali was reassigned to head the Immigration Department, while his other deputy Mr Shukri was ordered to go on leave until his retirement in Oct 2016.
The renewed probe into 1MDB and Mr Najib’s role in the scandal comes after the shock May 9 election defeat of the Barisan Nasional coalition, formerly led by Mr Najib, after six decades in power.
Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has vowed to recover billions of dollars allegedly misappropriated from the fund.
He has established a special 1MDB task force comprising Tan Sri Gani, Mr Abu Kassim, Mr Shukri and Special Branch director Abdul Hamid Bador.
Tan Sri Apandi, the current A-G, was instructed to go on leave and his duties have been taken over by the Solicitor-General. Meanwhile, Mr Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor have been barred from leaving the country