Malaysian PM Embroiled in Financial Scandal
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been involved in a corruption scandal as of early July 2015 in which it has been alleged, by the Wall Street Journal and prominent critics within Malaysia, that he enriched himself to the tune of a $700 million bank statement by draining the national development fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The 1MDB was founded in 2009 but has rapidly spiraled an estimated $11 billion into debt. The prime minister was originally accused of wrongdoing by fringe groups in Malaysia, but the scandal has affected many in the political elite: Najib’s deputy prime minister and the country’s attorney general have both been vocal critics and have urged the PM to publicly respond to the accusations.
The intensity of the scandal has not diminished with time. In the last week of July, Najib dismissed his deputy prime minister, the attorney general, and four other cabinet members in what was widely seen as a power consolidation and an obvious ouster of dissenting individuals within the government. The Prime Minister has also stripped publication licenses from two media outlets that have been extensively reporting on the 1MDB scandal, leading to anger and protests across the country in the days following the prime minister’s media crackdown.
In the first week of August, Najib was exonerated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) of any wrongdoing in the 1MDB matter, but questions remain for concerned citizens across the country. The MACC’s investigatory branch stated unequivocally that the $700 million in funds came from anonymous political donors, but it did not provide the identities of the donors or the purpose of the funds. Additionally, although the prime minister has denied using the funds for personal gain, he has remained mum about the possibility that money was received into accounts bearing his name. The widespread crackdown on dissent and unconvincing exoneration have shaken Malaysians’ faith in their government and, taken together, certainly ensure that the 1MDB scandal will not soon be forgotten in the country.