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Najib is ‘Malaysian Official 1’, minister confirms

KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian federal minister has admitted that Prime Minister Najib Razak is the “Malaysian Official 1” referenced in a civil lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in July to recover more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in assets embezzled from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib is ‘Malaysian Official 1’, minister confirms

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (right) and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (left) wave national flags during the 59th National Day celebrations at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 31, 2016. Photo: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR —  A Malaysian federal minister has admitted that Prime Minister Najib Razak is the “Malaysian Official 1” referenced in a civil lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in July to recover more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in assets embezzled from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

But, in the same breath, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said in an interview with the BBC that Mr  Najib was not officially named in the suit because he was not involved in the investigation. 

“I’ve said it openly. Obviously if you read the documents, it is the Prime Minister,” the BBC quoted Mr Abdul Rahman as saying in an article titled Who is Malaysian Official 1? Case closed, which was published on its website on Thursday (Sept 1).

“Why didn’t the DOJ name him by his proper name? That’s because he is not part of this investigation,” stated Mr Abdul Rahman, who is also head of strategic communications in ruling coalition United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

“There have been other people who are named ... and the Department of Justice will take this to the courts and the courts will decide.”

Mr Abdul Rahman said to the BBC that the Prime Minister has taken responsibility for the 1MDB scandal.

“He took responsibility ... he has put a new team in 1MDB,” he said. “But just to say because a few non-government organisations or opposition against the PM are asking the PM to vacate his position is a bit too much.”

Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing in the 1MDB scandal, which erupted last year, following reports that RM2.6 billion (S$864 million) had been deposited into his private accounts, as well as of financial irregularities in the state investment vehicle.

Malaysia’s Attorney-General has cleared Mr Najib of wrongdoing, saying that the money in his bank account was a political donation from the Saudi royal family, and that the bulk of it has been returned.

In the meantime, Mr Najib has tightened his grip on Umno, and wielded security and sedition laws to silence critics.

Putrajaya was jolted in July when the DOJ filed a civil lawsuit to seize more than US$1 billion in assets bought with money it said was embezzled from 1MDB. 

In the lawsuit, “Malaysian Official 1” was mentioned more than 30 times. It was alleged that this official received some US$681 million of the stolen money, and returned most of it.

During the weekend, several hundred tertiary students — dubbed #TangkapMO1 (Catch Malaysian Official 1) — held a protest in Kuala Lumpur, seizing on the description of “Malaysian Official 1” to call for 
accountability from the Malaysian government.

Tens of thousands of protesters joined a rally organised by electoral reform group Bersih last year, demanding Mr Najib’s resignation over the 1MDB saga.

Earlier this month, Bersih said it is planning another rally, but has yet to say where and when.

The minister’s admission confirmed what many Malaysian believed, with many taking to social media since the lawsuit to cheekily ask for the identity of “Malaysian Official 1”. 

“Imagine the impact on cybertroopers or those who tried to deny #MO1 (Malaysian Official 1) is @NajibRazak ... will their words be trusted again?,” wrote a Twitter user on Thursday.

“Wonder what is going thru his mind right now? How #rahmandahlan to explain to #MO1?,” wrote another Twitter user. AGENCIES

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