Anti-graft group worries Malaysia is turning autocratic

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 16): Global anti-graft group Transparency International (TI) today expressed worry that Malaysia was moving rapidly towards autocracy amid probes into controversial debt-ridden state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

TI said Malaysia was on its way towards disregarding its international commitments, including those under the United Nations Convention against corruption and the Asean Political-Security Community Blueprint 2015.

In a statement today, TI Asia Pacific regional director Srirak Plipat said the former's statement was "just another in a long line of incidents that raises questions about the impartiality of the judiciary and Malaysia's commitment to fighting corruption."

The statement follows calls by Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali to amend the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972 to charge journalists who refuse to reveal their sources, and whistleblowers.

He said almost six months after the then A-G Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who was investigating the 1MDB case, was "replaced" and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers dealing in the investigations were arrested or transferred, TI remained "seriously concerned" that without pressure from the international community, the case of "grand corruption" would go unpunished.

"We need the international community to come together to ensure that Malaysia responds to the ongoing investigation into the misappropriation of government funds, known as the 1MDB scandal, and does not try to cover up any wrongdoing,” Srirak said.

TI also said there remained many unanswered questions surrounding the 1MDB investment fund, about how RM680 million from Saudi Arabia was deposited into Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s private accounts, and where that money was now.

"Apandi recently closed the investigation into the Saudi donation, a decision that should be reviewed by MACC, free from political pressure," the group said.

TI said in light of what had happened, the only way to "shine a desperately needed light on what has really gone on in the case" might be international investigations.

There are currently ongoing investigations into 1MDB in Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

It was previously reported that the Swiss authorities investigating 1MDB had found allegations of corrupt activities.

Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber's office revealed earlier this month that there were "serious indications that funds have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies".

Some of the money, he said, had been transferred into Swiss accounts held by Malaysian former public officials and current and former public officials from the United Arab Emirates.