KUALA LAMPUR – At a three-day International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by Transparency International, organizers called for Prime Minister Najib Razak to come clean on a raging financial scandal.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has been under increasing pressure since The Wall Street Journal revealed in early July that Malaysian investigators had found nearly US$700 million in mysterious deposits into his personal bank accounts.
“There are two questions that need to be answered: Who paid the money and why? Where did it go? One man could answer those questions,” Jose Ugaz, global chair of Transparency International, told delegates in an opening speech.
Anger over the scandal brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur and other cities over the weekend. They demanded Najib’s removal and thorough reforms by Malaysia’s 58-year-old government, which is frequently hit by corruption scandals.
The three-day International Anti-Corruption Conference is organized by Transparency International and brings together graft-fighting agencies from around the world. The 16th edition of the conference, held this year in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital, gathered some 1,000 anti graft experts from over 130 countries.
Najib was originally scheduled to give the keynote address but was replaced by a low-ranking minister last week. The minister, Paul Low, said earlier on Wednesday that Najib stayed away to avoid facing hostile activists. No activists were seen at the conference by AFP.
Even before the bank deposit revelations, Najib had for months faced demands to explain huge sums allegedly missing from deals involving a state-owned company he launched.
Najib initially denied the Wall Street Journal report, but government ministers later admitted the bank deposits occurred. They called them “political donations” from Middle Eastern sources who want to see Najib’s government continues to be in power, but refused to give further details.
The government stoked further outrage with recent moves, including Najib’s sacking of Malaysia’s attorney general and police raids on anti-graft officers probing the scandal, that have left investigations in doubt.
Tens of thousands of Malaysians took to the streets over the weekend demanding his resignation over troubled state fund 1MDB and allegations of corruption..
Najib denies wrongdoing, alleging a “political conspiracy”, and has refused to step down.
Drawing frequent applause from hundreds of delegates, Ugaz said Malaysia faced a “corruption crisis”.
He criticised the disruptions to the investigations and the government’s recent shutdown of two Malaysian newspapers for their reporting on the scandals.
“These are not the actions of a government that is fighting corruption,” Ugaz said.
Even Low, who is in charge of integrity and governance, found the removal of investigators from anti-corruption agency Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) indefensible.
“I would protect the institutions of MACC in carrying out whatever task they need to do, whatever investigation they need to do and i would protect them at any cost,” he said.
To ensure independence, the minister has proposed to move the anti corruption agency out of the prime ministers office and make the auditor general directly answerable to the parliament.
– AFP, CNA