Datuk Seri Najib Razak was not investigated for corruption when he was prime minister because the attorney general (AG) at that time rebuffed the oversight panel’s recommendation to do so, lawyer Datuk Lim Chee Wee disclosed in an interview.
Lim told journalist Mary Ann Jolley on Al Jazeera’s 101 East programme that there was “enormous pressure” on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) review panel, of which he was a member at that time in 2015.
“I understand phone calls were made, some amount of persuasion would have been applied through the phone calls,” he said in the interview.
The former Malaysian Bar president agreed when asked if it was the power of the prime minister that was exerted on the MACC panel at that time.
“At the end of our term, none of us had our term extended, and this is contrasted to the then AG going public to say that the then prime minister Najib did not commit any wrongdoing,” he said.
Lim did not name the AG in the interview but said the incumbent had been newly appointed.
He also said that particular AG refused to cooperate with international investigations into the laundering of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.
“The new AG, despite repeated requests by MACC, did not issue mutual legal assistance request to foreign jurisdictions.
“His excuse was that there were ongoing police investigations in Malaysia. As a lawyer, I certainly don’t subscribe to that excuse,” Lim said.
Lim said the panel had urged the former AG to review the investigation paper in a professional manner and to “do what is right”.
When asked on what would have been right, Lim said, “now things have transpired, the right thing to do would be actually to prosecute.”
“The amount of power the PM had to be able to dismiss an AG at will, led to this situation,” Lim said.
There were two people who held the post of AG during Najib’s tenure as prime minister from April 2009 to May 2018.
The first was Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail who served from January 1, 2002, before it ended abruptly on July 27, 2015, three months before he would have reached the mandatory retirement age of 60 on his birthday in October.
Abdul Gani had been heading a multi-agency special task force investigating the 1MDB scandal, prior to the termination of his service.
He was replaced by former judge Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali who served from July 28, 2015, to June 4, 2018.
In the interview with the Qatari broadcaster, Lim said the takeaway from the past incidents was that concentration of power could create abuse of power.
“It is rather ironic that Tun Dr Mahathir, currently our seventh prime minister, is seeking to restore [and] revive institutional checks and balances, which he as our fourth prime minister has been criticised for weakening in the past,” he said.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Malaysia’s fourth prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and returned to the post under the new Pakatan Harapan coalition in May last year after winning the 14th general election. – MMO
Related report: May 10, Power and Corruption in Malaysia