Malaysia Premier Najib Queried by Anti-Graft Agency on Donations

  • Controversy has shone spotlight on Malaysian governance
  • Political tensions have risen in the past five months

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak was queried by anti-graft officials on the hundreds of millions of dollars that ended up in his private accounts before the 2013 general elections.

Najib was cooperative during the questioning on Saturday in a meeting that lasted 2 1/2 hours, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said in a statement. It didn’t provide further details.

The premier, 62, has said the 2.6 billion ringgit ($616 million) of funds in accounts that have since been closed were political donations from the Middle East rather than public money. That was also the initial conclusion reached by the commission in August in its preliminary investigations. Najib has denied taking money for personal gain and has been cited as saying that the funds were to meet the needs of the party and the community, and that this was not a new practice.

The donations controversy has dogged the ruling coalition for about five months and led to periodic drops in the price of shares and in the value of the ringgit. Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi told parliament on Thursday that the funds weren’t from a troubled state investment company, and that it would breach the law to comment further as investigations were ongoing.

Najib is facing his biggest crisis since coming to power in 2009, hit by the funding imbroglio and alleged financial irregularities at debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd., whose advisory board he chairs. The controversies have sparked political tensions within the ruling United Malays National Organisation and led thousands of anti-government protesters to rally in the capital in August.

UMNO is holding its annual general assembly meeting from Dec. 8 to 12.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.