By: Our Correspondent

Malaysia’s attorney general, Mohamed Apandi Ali, a United Malays National Organization stooge, has ignored mountains of evidence to the contrary and ruled that Prime Minister Najib Razak was innocent of criminal wrongdoing involving US$681 million (RM2.8 billion) that was mysteriously deposited in his personal bank account from an unknown source.

Apandi Ali, who once lied about the role of his murdered deputy, Kevin Morais, saying he had nothing to do with the Najib probe, also cleared Najib of misusing money from SRC International, a mysterious Middle Eastern oil development company funded by the scandal-scarred Malaysia Development Bhd. However, pictures made public by Sarawak Report of Najib’s name on SRC credit cards showed he had used the cards to purchase millions of dollars’ worth of luxury items for his wife, Rosmah Mansor, in Italy and Monaco.

The attorney general, who retires in mid-February, told a hurried press conference that “I have thoroughly perused all the witness statements and the documents in the investigation papers as well as the response given by MACC on my queries for clarification in relation to the investigation paper on the alleged RM2.6 billion and the two investigation papers in relation to SRC International which were returned to me by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.”

The press conference caught most observers by surprise. *

Incredulity Reigns over Statement

The attorney general’s statement was met with incredulity if not outright scorn by lawyers and opposition figures. The scandal has been going on for 11 months, with Najib firing Apandi Ali’s immediate successor, Abdul Gani Patail, who was widely believed to be preparing the charges based on information put together by Morais, who disappeared after leaving his flat on Sept. 4. By chance, a CCTV camera caught Morais being shoved into a car and kidnapped. He was later found in a barrel of cement in a river near Kuala Lumpur.

It was Apandi Ali who said after Morais disappeared that he had nothing to do with the probe of the Prime Minister’s finances. Morais appears to have been killed when unknown forces figured out he was one of the whistle-blowers feeding information to Sarawak Report and other news organizations. The government set out on a scorched-earth search for whistle-blowers after Gani was fired. Today, virtually all MACC participants in the case are said to be living in fear for their lives, including Gani himself. 

“There is so much evidence that has been made public implicating Najib], there are huge holes in the attorney general’s statements,” said one senior lawyer. “He has answered none of the questions that have been raised. Nobody is going to believe this.” 

Nonetheless, Najib appears to have batted back all opposition to his continuing as prime minister despite a massive amount of evidence concerning his personal finances, not only in the 1MDB case but involving enormously expensive purchases of homes and apartments in the United States by members of his family.

PM Solidifies Control

However, he remains firmly in control of the levers of power, which are the 291 UMNO cadres who could if they wished vote him out. In Malaysia, the only politics that matter, are the politics of UMNO, which dominates the political discourse by dint of the loyalty of the Malays who make up the largest ethnic bloc in the country, and through political control of ethnic tribesmen in Sabah and Sarawak.  Despite rumors he was negotiating his departure, he is said to be seeking to hire a public relations agency to clean up his image in advance of elections that must be held before March of 2018.

“If the top public servant of the country can openly amass billions with impunity, why can’t lesser officials similarly enrich themselves in lesser amounts?” asked Kim Quek, an opposition spokesman. “Wouldn’t that open a floodgate of runaway corruption in the public service? Apart from losing moral authority to administer the government, a country led by such a morally bankrupt leader would jeopardize the investment climate and cause a serious dent to the economy which is already caught in a tailspin.”

More Questions than Answers

While Apandi said told the press conference today that the US$681 million “donation” had come from the Saudi royal family, he didn’t identify what member or members of the Saudi family made it. The family numbers in the hundreds.   He made no effort to tell the public why the donation had been made.

‘I am satisfied that there is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly,” he said. “Evidence obtained from the investigation does not show that the donation was given as an inducement or reward for doing or forbearing to do anything in relation to his capacity as prime minister.”

Although Apandi said that US$620 million (RM2.03 billion) was returned by Najib in 2013 to the Saudi royal family because the sum was not utilized, there is evidence to show that the money was actually transmitted not to Saudi Arabia but to Najib’s personal account in Singapore, where it is believed to have been sequestered by Singaporean authorities as part of an investigation into illegal transfers.

Satisfied no Criminal Offense Committed

What’s more Apandi said, since no criminal offense has been committed, “I am satisfied that…there is no necessity for Malaysia to make a request for a mutual legal assistance to any foreign states for the purpose of completing the criminal investigation by the MACC in relation to the said RM2.08 billion donation.  However, investigations into Najib’s finances are continuing in the United States, Switzerland, Great Britain and France. They are not likely to be halted because of Apandi Ali’s statement.

“The evidence as a whole does not disclose any conflict of interest on the part of Najib; and

MACC itself admitted that based on their investigation, there are no evidence (sic) from the witnesses that could show that (Najib) had committed any act of corrupt practice,” Apandi Ali said in his statement. “There are no evidence (sic) to show that Najib had any knowledge and/or was informed that monies had been transferred into his personal accounts from the account of SRC International; There are no evidence (sic) to show that Najib had given any approval for the transfer of monies from the account of SRC International into his personal accounts; and evidence show that at all material times, Najib was of the belief that all payments which were made by him were made from the donation received from the Saudi royal family which was earlier transferred to his personal accounts.”

Based on the facts and evidence as a whole, the attorney general concluded, “I, as the public prosecutor, am satisfied that no criminal offence has been committed by Najib in relation to the three investigation papers. I will return the relevant investigation papers to MACC today with the instruction to close the three investigation papers.”

*This story originally said Apandi Ali was due to retired in two weeks. It would have been true if he had remained a judge. But his term as attorney general is open-ended. We apologize for the error.