Malaysia PM urged to come clean on scandal at anti-graft meeting
A global anti-corruption conference opened in Malaysia on Wednesday with a demand for the country’s Prime Minister Najib Razak to come clean on a raging financial scandal.
Najib has been under increasing pressure since The Wall Street Journal revealed in early July that Malaysian investigators had found nearly $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 organised by Transparency International and brings together graft-fighting agencies from around the world.
It is held this year in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital.
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 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 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.
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.