Malaysian government must stop impeding corruption investigations
Recent decisions by the Attorney-General put in doubt the impartiality of the judiciary
As Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak attends the US-ASEAN Summit in the United States with all ten leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Transparency International is urgently calling for greater protection of those who bring corruption to light in Malaysia and swift investigations into the corruption crisis surrounding the government.
Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement, is concerned that Malaysia is moving rapidly towards autocracy and disregarding its international commitments to fight corruption, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025.
“We need the international community to come together to ensure that Malaysia responds to the ongoing investigations into the misappropriation of government funds, known as the 1MDB scandal, and does not try to cover up any wrongdoing,” said Srirak Plipat, the Asia Pacific Regional Director of Transparency International.
Last week Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali stated he would like to amend the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972 to charge journalists who refuse to reveal their sources as well as whistleblowers. The Attorney-General’s statement is just another in a long line of incidents that raises questions about the impartiality of the judiciary and Malaysia’s commitment to fighting corruption.
Last year Prime Minister Najib replaced the previous attorney who was critical of the government, suspended the 1MDB taskforce that was investigating alleged government corruption and misappropriation of funds, and arrested or transferred investigators at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Almost six months later Transparency International remains seriously concerned that this is a case of grand corruption that will go unpunished if the international community does not come together to hold the country to account.
There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the 1MDB investment fund. There are also questions about how $680 million was deposited into Najib’s private accounts from Saudi Arabia and where that money is now. Attorney-General Apandi recently closed the investigation into the Saudi donation, a decision that should be reviewed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission free from political pressure.
There are currently investigations ongoing in Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the US over the 1MDB fund. The Swiss authorities also recently announced they had found evidence of allegations of corrupt activities in how the fund operated and several accounts have been frozen in Singapore as part of an investigation into possible money-laundering. With the tightening of government control on the freedom of information and independent investigations within Malaysia, international investigations may now be the only way able to shine a desperately needed light on what has really gone on in the case.
Attorney-General Apandi has said he is cooperating with international investigations. “We need transparency and confirmation from the international community that that really is the case,” said Plipat.
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