Latest WSJ report claims Najib got over $1.4b
THE Wall Street Journal's (WSJ's) latest expose on the massive funds found in Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank account claims the amount he received actually exceeded US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion), hundreds of millions more than previously identified.
In the article, published on Monday, the United States business daily said foreign investigators believe much of that money originated from the state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and was not a donation from a member of the Saudi royal family, as claimed by Mr Najib.
The parts in the article describing how the money was channelled from 1MDB via a complex series of transactions in several countries to Mr Najib's account had been carried by other investigative publications, including the London-based Sarawak Report.
WSJ, however, is the first internationally renowned newspaper to run the alleged details, saying these were based on bank documents, probe findings and reliable sources.
"The WSJ has become a willing vehicle for certain political actors who are seeking to damage the Prime Minister and Malaysia for personal gain," said a statement from Mr Najib's office yesterday, in response to the article.
The statement accused the WSJ of relying solely on anonymous sources "that might not even exist" and of choosing to "omit key known facts", the Malay Mail Online reported.
According to WSJ, foreign investigators disputed the conclusion by Malaysian Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali in late January that the US$681 million found in Mr Najib's account was a legal donation from Saudi Arabia.
Mr Apandi ordered a stop to further scrutiny into the deposits.
WSJ, however, quoted sources as saying that foreign investigators believe the money was moved from 1MDB with the help of two former officials of the Abu Dhabi emirate, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.
The Journal reported last year that some of that money went into projects that helped Mr Najib retain power in a close 2013 election.
Mr Najib dismissed the charges as ploys by political foes to overthrow him, and 1MDB - which he set up in 2009 and oversees as its chief adviser - also denied playing a role in politics.
The latest WSJ article also quoted sources as saying that the International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic), an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, had denied ever receiving nearly US$2.4 billion from 1MDB.
Ipic was supposed to have been paid the money for providing bond guaranteeing and other services to 1MDB.
At least US$681 million out of that US$2.4 billion moved into an account Mr Najib held with a Swiss bank in Singapore after the entire sum travelled through two companies in British Virgin Islands, according to the sources.
Mr Najib has been urged by many in Malaysia to sue WSJ to clear his name over the newspaper's earlier allegations.
But his lawyers said the American Speech Act deterred him from doing so as it prevented enforcement of any judgment obtained in a foreign court.
"If it (the WSJ report) is not true, the prime minister should sue them for false reporting," former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday.
"If he doesn't, then there must be some truth to what was said," said the 90-year-old, who resigned from the United Malays National Organisation on Monday, accusing the ruling party of supporting corruption under Mr Najib's leadership.