The 1MDB scandal had cost former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak dearly and made him a virtual untouchable in the corridors of power.
But with Umno back at the helm, Najib appears to be set to rise from 1MDB’s ashes and take on a key government role once again.
Multiple sources have indicated to Malaysiakini that the post of economic adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is on the cards.
This follows a meeting the two had on Tuesday. Ismail Sabri had said that Najib was committed to contributing time and energy to the “Malaysian family” – the prime minister’s tagline for his administration.
Sources indicated that the economic adviser portfolio may be discussed in next week’s cabinet meeting.
Najib has not confirmed or denied the speculation.
However, in a Facebook post yesterday, the Pekan MP said he had outlined various suggestions and measures to tackle Covid-19, raise public and investor confidence in the economy, and the people’s wellbeing.
He said some of these ideas have already been discussed with Ismail Sabri.
“I am very confident that my approach and suggestions are realistic, will work, easy to implement soon, and will benefit the people and the country,” he said.
“God willing, it will get the blessings of the prime minister and cabinet to be implemented soon,” he added.
If true, offering Najib the economic adviser post could be a move by Ismail Sabri to further secure support from the Zahid-Najib camp in Umno.
Sources in the know had previously indicated that the Pekan MP was among those instrumental in getting Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and those aligned to him to support Ismail’s bid to become prime minister.
Analysts had warned that giving Najib a government post could backfire on the Ismail Sabri government, and provide fodder for Umno’s enemies.
It could also ruffle feathers with Bersatu – a key ally in Ismail Sabri’s government – who have been adamant against including Najib, and other Umno leaders on trial for corruption, in the government.
Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin had said that his Perikatan Nasional coalition’s support for Ismail Sabri was conditional on there not being any corrupt ministers.
The economic adviser post may come with ministerial status.
The Pekan MP has, however, begun hitting back at his enemies – a move that coincides with speculation of his comeback.
He has filed a police report against the Inland Revenue Board, claiming a tax suit against him was politically motivated.
He has also sent a letter of demand to Muhyiddin, demanding the latter fess up whether he had spread rumours that Najib had allegedly sought government interference in his corruption trial.
Najib has denied the rumour.
Najib was finance minister from 2008 and prime minister from 2009. He held both posts until BN’s defeat in the 2018 general election.
His legacy during his time in office is saddled by the 1MDB scandal, for which he is facing multiple corruption proceedings that are still pending in court. Najib has maintained he is innocent and is challenging a conviction against him.
1MDB was supposed to be a strategic investment company that generated wealth for the country.
Instead, it was used as a vehicle by fugitive businessperson Low Taek Jho to siphon billions in public funds.
US investigators alleged that part of the swindled funds – US$681 million – were channelled to Najib to fund the 2013 general election.
Najib had claimed that these funds were a donation from the Saudi government. This claim has been debunked by investigators.
He had returned US$620 million of the funds – reportedly to accounts controlled by Low.
US investigators and Malaysian police alleged that Low used some of these funds to buy a pink diamond necklace worth US$27.3 million for Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor.
Funds siphoned from a 1MDB subsidiary, SRC International, meanwhile, had allegedly been used by Najib to pay off personal credit cards.
Besides the 1MDB scandal, Najib’s final years as finance minister and prime minister had also been hampered by falling oil prices and a drop in the ringgit’s value. – Malaysiakini