KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian authorities investigating scandal-hit state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) are considering charging former prime minister Najib Razak with money laundering and misappropriation of property.
Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, is the subject of a money laundering and corruption probe, after reports that millions of dollars made their way into his personal bank accounts from the fund and its former subsidiary, SRC International. The former premier has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB.
Najib, 64, suffered a shock loss in the May 9 general election, the first change of government since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. Mahathir Mohamad, who was elected prime minister, has vowed to bring back funds allegedly siphoned from 1MDB and punish those responsible.
Malaysia’s new Attorney General Tommy Thomas said his office was studying possible criminal and civil action, after receiving investigation papers on 1MDB. A source close to the investigations told Reuters Najib may be charged with dishonest misappropriation of property under the Malaysian Penal Code. The source declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak on the matter.
The offence carries a maximum jail sentence of five years, a fine and whipping. The law, however, forbids men over the age of 50 years from being whipped.
1MDB is the subject of money-laundering probes globally, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
The US Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, about $700 million of which ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts.