Malaysia: Call for PM to step down over 1MDB scandal
July 21, Kulal Lumpur: A Malaysian opposition party leader has called on Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down following the lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department to seize $1bn in assets linked to the country's scandal-plagued 1MDB state investment fund.
The Justice Department said on Wednesday that the assets were "associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated" from 1MDB, and included lavish real estate in Beverly Hills and New York, artwork by Monet and Van Gogh, and a business jet, reports said.
"I believe the Malaysian people want Dato' Sri Najib to go on leave as prime minister so as not to create the perception of abuse of power or process to halt or hinder a full and transparent investigation on this very serious issue," Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, president of the People's Justice Party (PKR), said in a statement on Thursday.
Malaysia's government should allow an independent commission investigate corruption claims outlined by the Justice Department, said Wan Azizah, who is the wife of jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The lawsuit alleges a complex money laundering scheme that the Justice Department said was intended to enrich top-level officials of 1MDB.
In a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the 1MDB funds were used as a "personal bank account".
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The fund is owned by the Malaysian government, but none of the lawsuits named Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
However, the case named Riza Aziz, the prime minister's step-son, as a "relevant individual" in the case.
The lawsuits also named Najib's friend, Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, and Abu Dhabi government officials Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny.
As the prime minister holds the financial portfolio under which 1MDB operates, and many of his critics say he should have known what was going on "and many actually accuse him of being involved in this whole scenario," Rahman said.
Ordinary Malaysians will likely be shocked by this US investigation, as the Malaysian government's own probe of 1MDB has already ended, he said.
In the statement, the prime minister's office said it would "fully cooperate with any lawful investigation of Malaysian companies or citizens, in accordance with international protocols, as the prime minister has always maintained, if any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception," he added.
The Oslo Times International News Network