Riyadh’s top diplomat has accepted the Malaysian attorney general’s clearance of the Southeast Asian country’s premier in connection with $681 million found in his accounts, but expressed doubt on whether the funds were a political donation -- as claimed -- from Saudi rulers.
“It is a private Saudi citizen, I believe, and the funds went to an investment in Malaysia,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the New York Times (NYT).
Last week, Malaysia’s attorney general ruled out any wrongdoings by Prime Minister Najib Razak, saying the funds that were found in his personal accounts were a political donation from Saudi royals during the May 2013 general election -- $620 of which was returned.
Apandi Ali said on Jan. 26 that Razak had also not committed any crime in relation to a further 42 million Ringgit (nearly $10 million) deposited in his accounts from the finance ministry’s SRC International Sdn Bhd, ordering the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to close two probes on him.
The NYT article published Friday also cited an unnamed member and an associate of the Saudi royal family, both of who requested anonymity, as saying the money had not been provided as a donation but had come from a “Saudi prince”.
The associate added that it had been “part of a business deal”, and questioned whether the actual amount was the reported $681 million.
While politicians within Malaysia’s long-ruling party, United Malays National Organization (UMNO), had proudly declared that the funds came from "Middle East Royals" who wanted the party to retain power, Razak remained silent on the matter.
He insisted that political donations are confidential and donors would only be revealed if opposition parties agreed to follow suit.
The premier had originally responded to the allegations by insisting that he had not swindled funds for personal gain, whether it be from SRC International, debt-ridden state investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad -- or 1MDB, of which SRC is a former subsidiary -- or other entities.
The move to clear Razak has drawn widespread criticism. Zaid Ibrahim, a former law minister and UMNO member, filed a judicial review application Tuesday to strike out Ali's decision as well as his order to close the investigation.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad -- Malaysia’s longest serving premier of 23 years and Razak’s once mentor -- renewed his call for Razak’s resignation.
He wrote on his blog Friday that the clearance “means nothing” as the attorney general “has no credibility”.