Dubai: Foreign governments and investigating agencies probing allegations of money laundering and misappropriation funds of Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) should share their findings, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
Mahathir was in Dubai to address a conference on leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship organised by Canadian University Dubai.
He wants foreign investigations to put pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak to leave office and face the law. The scandal surrounding 1MDB is now a subject of investigations in nearly a dozen countries, looking at the legality of fund transfers amid allegations of graft and money laundering.
In 2015, allegations were made in several newspapers that the organisation had been used to siphon state funds into the accounts of Prime Minister Razak, and people associated with him.
The probes come amid a separate political scandal over a $681 million (Dh2.5 billion) donation from the Saudi royal family that appeared in Razak’s bank accounts before the general election in 2013. Razak has denied any wrongdoing over the donation and the attorney-general has cleared him of any graft.
Malaysia’s attorney general cleared Razak of wrongdoing in January, saying $681 million deposited in the prime minister’s accounts was a donation from Saudi Arabia, an explanation that was met with widespread scepticism.
Earlier this week Mahathir applied for a court order to freeze Razak’s assets. He is also seeking a court order for Razak to disclose all assets held under his name as well as under the names of his nominees. Mahathir, along with two others, filed a suit in March against Razak alleging corruption and abuse of power. The lawsuit also accused Razak of interfering in several probes into debt-laden 1MDB. “I am trying to fight him legally by filing a case to freeze his assets. But I am not very optimistic on the outcome as the government’s control on law enforcement is extensive,” said Mahathir.
Mahathir alleged that Razak’s government is preventing law to take its course. “The ideal outcome to the current crisis is that he should leave the office and face law paving the way for the formation of a new government,” he said.
“Under the current circumstances, it is extremely difficult for us to change the leader as he has subverted all the laws in the system to his advantage. There is nothing much can be done through the legal system in Malaysia. If one is to report against him in the police, he stands the risk of harassment and potential arrest,” he said.
The former prime minister told Gulf News that he fears arrest as the government is desperate to silence him. “The government could arrest me under desperation. Legally they can’t do it because I have been acting within the legal framework, but it is always possible to bring false charges against me,” he said.
Mahathir said nothing much can be done from within Malaysia to oust Razak or bring him to justice. But investigations are happening in a number of countries on alleged money laundering, illegal money transfers and misappropriation of funds. If the investigating agencies around the world should share data on breach of laws in their respective jurisdictions and bring pressure on him to quit on his own.
“As a private citizen, my role and ability is limited in fighting the case. All I can do is to mobilise public opinion highlighting the illegal dealings of the government,” he said.
Mahathir alleged that Prime Minister Razak is using threats to keep ruling party leaders under him. “Because of fear of expulsion or other consequences, people can’t express themselves. So, within the party, I can’t do much except work with like-minded people to oust him from power and restore rule of law in the country.”