KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Embezzlement and bribery with government money are among the charges that Malaysia is looking to bring against former prime minister Najib Razak following a probe into funds allegedly looted from the state-run fund 1MDB, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said.
Mahathir told Reuters that Malaysian investigators already “have an almost perfect case” against the principal suspects who defrauded 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and misappropriated billions of dollars in public funds.
He also described Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, as playing a central role.
“He was totally responsible for 1MDB. Nothing can be done without his signature, and we have his signature on all deals entered into by 1MDB. Therefore, he is responsible,” said Mahathir, 93.
Following his stunning victory, Mahathir reopened investigations into 1MDB and Najib’s involvement in its operations.
As a result of an anti-kleptocracy probe, the US Department of Justice alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $700 million of that ended up in Najib’s personal bank accounts.
Mahathir barred Najib from leaving Malaysia, and police have searched properties linked to him, while anti-graft investigators have questioned both Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor.
Mahathir said Rosmah was also being investigated in connection with 1MDB.
“Some of the money is believed to have gone to her, lots of money,” Mahathir said. “We know about this, but finding the paper trail is a bit more difficult in this case because she doesn’t sign any papers. Najib signs a lot of papers.”
Mahathir said he expected Malaysia to make its first arrest in the 1MDB case within months and “hopefully” start a trial by the end of the year.