Posts Tagged ‘graft’

China’s biggest bank corruption criminal repatriated from U.S.

July 11, 2018

A Chinese man who embezzled $485 million from his employer in the biggest bank corruption case in China’s history was repatriated on Wednesday by U.S. authorities, the country’s anti-graft agency said.

China’s widely-publicised “Sky Net” operations to bring home overseas fugitives suspected of corruption and economic crimes are a key plank of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping campaign to eradicate graft.

Xu Chaofan, a former president of a sub-branch of the Bank of China at Kaiping in southern Guangdong province, fled to the United States in 2001, but was detained in 2003 following the cooperation of law enforcement officials in the two countries.

Image result for Xu Chao Fan, photos

Xu Chaofan. FILE

He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to a 25-year prison term in the United States in 2009 and had been serving his time there, China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement, until he accepted repatriation following pressure by U.S. and Chinese authorities.

Image result for Bank of China at Kaiping, photos

Bank of China at Kaiping

More than 2 billion yuan ($300 million) of the amount Xu stole has been recovered, the agency added.China has turned up the pressure on graft suspects overseas by asking families to contact them and encourage them to return, as well as by releasing personal details, such as their addresses.

But it has had limited success in securing cooperation from Western countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States, where many of the most wanted live, largely because of what those governments see as a lack of transparency and due process in China’s judicial system.

($1=6.6566 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reuters

Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Se Young Lee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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Former Malaysian premier Najib arrested amid graft probe

July 3, 2018

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested on Tuesday, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, amid an investigation into how billions of dollars went missing from a state fund he founded almost a decade ago.

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Malaysia’s former premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who chaired the 1MDB advisory board, pointed out that he had held similar positions in other organisations and such problems did not arise. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Authorities picked up Najib from his home after serving him with a remand order, two sources close to the family said. One of the sources said Najib was expected to be charged in court on Wednesday.

Malaysia’s anti-graft agency also said Najib had been arrested, according to state news agency Bernama.

A Najib spokesman did not immediately have a comment. Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing in dealings with state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Since his shock election loss to Mahathir Mohamad in May, Najib has been barred from leaving the country, quizzed by the anti-graft agency and had his personal and family houses searched as part of the 1MDB probe.

Mahathir said in an interview with Reuters last month that embezzlement and bribery with government money were among the charges that Malaysia was looking to bring against Najib, adding they had “an almost perfect case” against him.

Founded by Najib in 2009, 1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.

Civil lawsuits filed by the U.S. Department of Justice allege that nearly $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB.

Lopez Obrador: ‘stubborn’ leftist vowing to change Mexico

June 29, 2018

 

Power to the populist.   Photographer: Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Mexico goes to the polls this Sunday to choose its next president. Barring a last-minute surprise, the winner will be Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

“Stubborn” is among the many insults that have been hurled at Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the veteran leftist who is the heavy favorite to win Mexico’s presidential election Sunday.

He considers it a compliment.

The man known as “AMLO” kicked off his third presidential bid vowing to use his headstrong personality to fight for the change that so many Mexicans hunger for this election year.

“I’m stubborn. It’s a well-known fact,” he said.

“With that same conviction, I will act as president… stubbornly, obstinately, persistently, bordering on craziness, to wipe out corruption.”

Those close to him can vouch for that.

“We’re talking about a man whose main quality is his tenacity,” Mexican writer and historian Paco Ignacio Taibo II, an outspoken supporter, told AFP.

Lopez Obrador, 64, is one of the most divisive figures in Mexican politics: his critics hate him as fervently as his fans love him.

But his vows to fight for a “radical turn” in Mexico have worked in a nation fed up with seemingly endless corruption scandals and a horrifically violent drug war.

The former Mexico City mayor leads his rivals by more than 20 points heading into election day.

– Fire and ice –

Lopez Obrador’s fiery attacks on the “mafia of power” have tapped the frustrations of voters sick of the two parties that have governed Mexico for almost a century: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the National Action Party (PAN).

But the two-time presidential runner-up has also managed to present a cooler side this time around, answering criticism with humor and laughing off dire warnings about how he would wreck Latin America’s second-largest economy.

When enemies accused him of ties to Russia, he slyly turned the insult to irony, donning a Russian ushanka hat and calling himself “Andres Manuelovich.”

When the three other candidates took turns attacking him during debates, he calmly stayed above the fray — at one point whipping out a chart with the latest poll numbers by way of rebuttal.

“I don’t want to brag, but I humbly submit to you the latest poll,” he said.

– Anti-graft poster boy –

As his rivals have battled each other to sound the toughest on corruption, Lopez Obrador has easily emerged as the anti-graft poster boy, vowing to lead by example.

He says he will halve the presidential salary if elected, live in his modest home instead of the presidential residence, and sell the presidential jet.

“Not even Donald Trump has a plane like that,” he is fond of saying.

He has clashed with Mexico’s business community, with some warning he would pursue Venezuela-style socialist policies.

Seeking to ease those fears, he has appointed a team of market-friendly advisers and backpedalled on some of his most controversial proposals.

In fact, it is hard to guess just what his policies will actually be.

Many Mexicans are not quite sure what he represents, other than something new. In these elections, that may be enough.

– ‘La Chingada’ –

However, Lopez Obrador also has a knack for shooting himself in the foot.

In 2006, he led for most of the race. Then he lost his cool in the home stretch and insulted the sitting president, Vicente Fox, as a “big-mouth” (loosely translated).

Many observers have said that may have cost him the race.

Lopez Obrador refused to accept his narrow defeat, proclaiming himself the “legitimate president” in a faux inauguration and setting up a protest camp in the heart of Mexico City that plunged the country into weeks of uncertainty.

He has never hesitated to burn political bridges.

A native of the southern state of Tabasco, he got his start in politics in the 1970s with the ruling PRI party — now his enemy.

He helped launch a left-wing breakaway, the PRD, in the 1980s.

He made an unsuccessful run for governor of Tabasco in 1994, then leapt to the national political scene when he was elected Mexico City mayor in 2000.

He left the job to run for president in 2006. After a second unsuccessful presidential run in 2012, he spurned the PRD to found his own leftist party, Morena — which now appears to be on track to become the dominant force in Mexican politics.

Lopez Obrador has vowed this is his last campaign. If he loses, he says, he will retire to “La Chingada,” his ranch in the south. The name is another joke: the statement roughly translates as “go to hell.”

The widower remarried journalist and writer Beatriz Gutierrez Muller in 2006. He has four sons.

AFP

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Among the losers may be a bipartisan, multi-decade success story: steadily improving relations between Mexico and the U.S.

Though Americans often forget it, the relationship between Mexico and the U.S. is rooted in rivalry. “Poor Mexico,” the longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz once reportedly remarked. “So far from God, so close to the United States.”

During the Mexican-American War, the U.S. exploited a border dispute to conquer and annex most of northern Mexico. During the Mexican revolution in the early 20th century, American troops seized the port city of Veracruz and invaded northern Mexico in response to Pancho Villa’s raids on U.S. territory.

Little surprise that for many Mexicans, the U.S. was a greedy, aggressive power that repeatedly humiliated its weaker neighbor. For many Americans, Mexico was a failed state that produced instability and violence.

Throughout much of the 20th century, relations were hot and cold. Mexico fought with the allies during World War II and sometimes helped the CIA by monitoring Latin American communists and Castro’s Cuba during the Cold War. Yet the Mexican government also nationalized foreign-owned oil companies in 1938, and Mexican diplomats frequently put their country at the forefront of opposition to U.S. policies in the United Nations and other forums. The authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party, which monopolized domestic politics for decades, relied on nationalism — often of an anti-U.S. character — as a pillar of its legitimacy.

Beginning in the 1980s, however, the relationship began a fundamental change. Mexico’s economic liberalization made possible the establishment of a more fluid and cooperative economies ties, formalized by the signing of Nafta in 1992. Political liberalization in Mexico brought to power a new generation of PRI leaders — technocrats, often educated in the U.S., who saw closer relations with Washington as a way of modernizing their own country.

Then came the rise of an authentically democratic system and two conservative, opposition administrations — under Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party — that steadily expanded the relationship. From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, Democratic and Republican presidents had the good sense to encourage these trends.

Even the darkest clouds have had silver linings in this regard. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks fostered enhanced cooperation on counterterrorism and border security. In the face of horrific violence by Mexico’s drug cartels, strong political leadership, mostly by Calderón and George W. Bush, led to a whole new level of coordination between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies and, more quietly, between the defense establishments of the two countries.

In addition, few Americans are likely aware of how much Mexico has helped the U.S. deal with the challenge of illegal immigration. Despite President Trump’s claimthat Mexico “is doing very little, if not nothing,” Mexico has significantly strengthened enforcement on its own southern order — a gateway to the north for Central American immigrants — and cooperated with American authorities in processing deportees.

U.S.-Mexico relations could still be testy, as one would expect from two neighbors that share a long border and some unpleasant history. But the momentum was unmistakable.

That momentum is in jeopardy today, due to political developments on both sides of the border. Donald Trump bears most of the blame: his demonization of immigrants, racist comments about Mexicans and Latinos, advocacy of building a “big, beautiful wall” on the southern border, family-separation policy, and threats to tear up Nafta have not made bilateral cooperation a politically popular position in Mexico.

According to polling by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, America’s favorability rating among Mexicans has plunged from 66 percent to 30 percent since 2015, while unfavorable views have skyrocketed from 29 percent to 65 percent.

The Mexican government of Enrique Peña Nieto has tried to keep the relationship on an even keel by conciliating rather than confronting Trump. This approach, however, has been a public relations disaster for the already unpopular Peña Nieto from the moment he welcomed candidate Trump to Mexico City in 2016. And as Trump reawakens the anti-American strain in Mexican nationalism, Mexico is poised to elect a president who can give as good as he gets.

This is not to say that López Obrador is as politically radical or congenitally anti-American as his critics sometimes claim. AMLO, as he is known, is probably not a new version of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez who will lead Mexico into dictatorship; he is not an unrepentant anti-American ideologue in the mold of the Castro brothers. (Nor, contrary to many U.S. pundits and politicians, does he owe his likely victory solely or even principally to anti-Trump sentiment.)

But he is a throwback to an earlier era in Mexican politics, in that he mixes condemnations of a corrupt elite and populist calls for social justice, on the one hand, with illiberal inclinations, an aversion to transparency, and desires for a more empowered presidency on the other.

Much of this agenda is straight out of the old PRI playbook, which López Obrador learned when he was a member of that party. So is his support for corrupt unions and economic protectionism. If Trump wants to return America to the 1950s, AMLO wants to take Mexico back to the 1970s.

Trump may therefore recognize a kindred spirit south of the border. Yet one doubts that the pairing will be good for U.S.-Mexico affairs. López Obrador has pledged to seek a positive relationship, but he has also played the nationalism card by promising to put Trump “in his place,” to drive a hard bargain on Nafta renegotiation, and to haul America before the U.N. should the president build his wall.

He has argued that Mexico should become more self-sufficient in foodstuffs and gasoline, currently major imports from the U.S., and outlined a more “independent” position on security cooperation. His advisers have described his vision as a “Mexico First” agenda that seems likely to clash with Trump’s “America First” ethos. And given that populists perpetually need enemies, one can hardly rule out the possibility that he will use the U.S. as a political whipping boy, just as Trump has done with Mexico.

In short, whereas much of the recent progress in U.S.-Mexico relations has been driven by strong presidential support on both sides, that impetus will now be lacking on both sides. The odds of a breakdown of the Nafta talks will therefore tick upward once López Obrador takes office; and the Mexican government may demand greater American concessions in return for continued cooperation on drug trafficking, migration and other security issues.

The upshot may or may not be an outright reversal of U.S.-Mexican cooperation — here López Obrador’s nationalism will clash with his understanding of just how important the U.S. is to Mexico. But it could stall several decades of progress in one of America’s most important foreign relationships.

That would be a shame. Friendly relations with neighbors are a blessing, as those countries that are not fortunate to have such relations can attest. Upsetting those relations might suit Trump and López Obrador politically, at least in the short-term; it would serve neither of their countries’ long-term interests.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Hal Brands at Hal.Brands@jhu.edu

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-06-28/-mexico-s-trump-is-a-real-problem-for-the-u-s

Mexican leftist closes in on presidency with anti-Corruption plan — “Throw out the mafia of power”

June 28, 2018

Fed up with rampant corruption and violence, Mexicans vote Sunday in historic elections that look set to punish the political establishment and deliver the presidency to leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Leading by more than 20 points in the polls, the sharp-tongued, silver-haired politician known as “AMLO” looks poised to become the next figure on the growing global list of anti-establishment candidates swept into office by a wave of popular discontent.

But there is also something uniquely Mexican in his message and the way it has resonated with voters.

© AFP | Mexico’s frontrunning presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves to supporters during the closing rally of his campaign ahead of Sunday’s election

Mexicans are angry over endemic corruption and horrific violence that left a record 25,000 murders last year — a record on track to be broken again this year in an orgy of bloodshed fueled by the country’s powerful drug cartels.

Many voters despise the two parties that have governed Mexico for nearly a century: the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Lopez Obrador, 64, calls them both part of the same mafia of power a message that resonated with many people — even if the former Mexico City mayor has been vague on what the change he promises will look like.

“The policies we’ve been applying for the past 30 years haven’t worked. We haven’t even had economic growth,” Lopez Obrador told supporters as he wrapped up his campaign on Wednesday.

“What’s grown is corruption, poverty, crime and violence. That’s why we’re going to send their policies to the dustbin of history.”

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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

– Master of message –

Such attacks have left Lopez Obrador’s rivals scrambling to both distance themselves from their parties’ legacies and portray his ideas as dangerous.

Judging by the polls, the PRI and PAN candidates — ex-finance minister Jose Antonio Meade and former speaker of Congress Ricardo Anaya, respectively — are struggling to sell that message.

The poll aggregator Oraculus gives Lopez Obrador 48.1 percent of the vote heading into election day, Anaya 26.1 percent, Meade 20.8 percent and independent candidate Jaime Rodriguez five percent.

Lopez Obrador’s coalition — led by his party, Morena — is within striking distance of a congressional majority and six of the nine governorships up for grabs.

That would be a major realignment in Mexican politics and a coup for a party launched only six years ago, originally as a grassroots movement to support the three-time presidential candidate’s 2012 campaign.

“Neither Meade nor Anaya managed to present anything as attractive as Lopez Obrador’s message,” political consultant Fernando Dworak told AFP.

“Like him or not, he’s the best political communicator in Mexico.”

– Mexican menace? –

Lopez Obrador has clashed with Mexico’s business community, with some warning he would pursue Venezuela-style socialist policies that could wreck Latin America’s second-largest economy.

Seeking to soothe, he has recruited a team of market-friendly advisers and backpedalled on his most controversial proposals, including reversing outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto’s landmark energy reform, which privatized the oil sector.

Mexico’s next president faces a laundry list of challenges, including a lackluster economy and a thorny relationship with the United States under President Donald Trump, whose anti-trade, anti-immigration policies have turned diplomacy with Mexico’s key trading partner into a minefield.

Lopez Obrador has vowed to “put (Trump) in his place.”

Ironically, some commentators draw parallels between the two: both are free-trade skeptics who have fired up a disgruntled base with populist campaigns.

But unlike the American billionaire, Lopez Obrador has built a reputation as an ascetic everyman, vowing to halve his own salary and eschew the presidential residence in favor of his modest Mexico City home.

Criticized by opponents as an arrogant autocrat, he has also strived to soften his image.

“This time around, he’s demonstrated his sense of humor,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington.

“It’s generated a much less threatening image. The rise of Morena and the reinvention of Andres Manuel are very closely tied together.”

– Massive election –

Besides electing their president for the next six years, Mexico’s 88 million voters will choose their 500 lower-house deputies and 128 senators, as well as a host of state and local officials.

Preliminary official results are expected around 11:00 pm (0400 GMT Monday).

In all, more than 18,000 posts are at stake — the largest elections in Mexican history.

They have also been the most violent, with more than 100 politicians murdered since September — some after vowing to fight drug cartels, others for apparent links to them, and still others in crimes that, like so many in Mexico, remain murky.

AFP

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Manager of China aircraft carrier builder under graft probe

June 17, 2018

China has launched a corruption investigation into the general manager of the state-owned firm responsible for building aircraft carriers, a potential complication in ambitious plans to modernise its navy.

Sun Bo is being probed for “suspicion of serious breach of the party discipline and the law”, Communist Party watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a brief online statement late Saturday.

© AFP/File | China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier during its sea trials

Sun, 57, is second-in-command of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.

The country’s first domestically built aircraft carrier started sea trials last month.

The carrier, known only as “Type 001A”, is expected to be commissioned by 2020, giving China a second aircraft carrier as it asserts its extensive claims in the South China Sea and seeks to deter any independence movements in Taiwan.

It is unclear whether the investigation into Sun will have an impact on the new carrier’s status.

China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is a secondhand Soviet ship built nearly 30 years ago and commissioned in 2012.

President Xi Jinping has pursued a highly-publicised anti-corruption drive since taking office in 2012, vowing to go after both senior “tigers” and low-level “flies”.

AFP

Malaysian ex-PM’s wife in three-hour grilling over graft claims

June 5, 2018

The wife of Malaysia’s ousted prime minister Najib Razak was on Tuesday questioned for more than three hours by the nation’s anti-corruption agency over a massive financial scandal involving a state sovereign wealth fund.

The spotlight is now on Rosmah Mansor after police last month raided two condominiums linked to Najib and his family as part of an investigation into his role in the 1MDB scandal — seizing bags of cash, jewellery and hundreds of designer handbags.

© AFP/File / by M JEGATHESAN | The spotlight is now on Rosmah Mansor, the luxury-loving ex-PM’s wife, as anti-graft officials investigate a massive financial scandal involving Malaysia’s state sovereign wealth fund

Rosmah, 66, is widely reviled in Malaysia for her reported luxurious tastes and imperious manner. She last month issued a statement lashing out at media coverage of the police raids, calling them a “premature public trial”.

Known for her love of luxury clothes and handbags, Rosmah arrived for questioning in a three-car convoy.

Following her departure from the agency headquarters, her lawyers said anti-graft investigators had completed recording her statement after a session lasting over three hours during which she gave her “utmost cooperation”.

The nature of the questioning was not made public.

But Abdul Razak Idris, former investigations and intelligence director at the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), earlier told AFP that Rosmah would likely “be asked to reveal her bank accounts and explain about the source of the cash and jewellery found by police in two condominiums recently.”

Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the 1MDB fund — founded by Najib — in a sophisticated fraud that stretched from Singapore to Switzerland, with the money used to buy items ranging from Picasso artworks to high-end real estate.

Both Najib and the fund have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

– Luxury-loving –

Rosmah spent nearly five hours in the building before leaving in a silver Mercedes Benz.

“Our client will extend further cooperation as and when sought by the agency,” lawyer K. Kumarendran told gathered media in a prepared statement.

Former prime minister Najib has seen a swift fall from grace since he was defeated by a reformist coalition led by his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, in elections last month.

Voter anger at claims of corruption tied to Najib and a rise in living costs were among major factors in the shocking defeat of the ruling coalition, which had been in power for over six decades.

Najib himself was questioned by anti-graft officers twice last month. Both he and his wife have been banned from leaving the country.

The luxury-loving Rosmah is often compared with Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than a thousand pairs of shoes after her husband, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, was ousted in 1986.

In 2015, Rosmah told a public gathering that she paid 1,200 ringgit ($300) to colour her hair, angering Malaysians as the minimum wage was then just 900 ringgit a month.

by M JEGATHESAN
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AFP

Malaysian anti-graft agency calls for statement from wife of ex-PM Najib

June 1, 2018

Malaysia’s anti-graft commission has called for a statement from the wife of former Prime Minister Najib Razak in its investigation into a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), two sources at the commission said.

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Rosmah Mansor

Rosmah Mansor will have to go to the headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on Tuesday to have her statement recorded in connection with investigations into SRC International, one source said.

“The notice was served by MACC officers at the home of the former prime minister today,” the source said on Friday.

The sources asked not to be identified as details of the notice have yet to be made public.

© AFP/File / by Dan Martin | Former prime minister Najib Razak (C) and his wife Rosmah Mansor were seen as out of touch with ordinary Malaysians

Najib, ousted in a stunning election defeat last month, gave a statement to MACC on May 22 on a suspicious transfer of $10.6 million into his bank account.

Singapore, Malaysia authorities meet to discuss 1MDB, kleptocracy

May 31, 2018

Singapore investigators are in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur to help authorities with an investigation into scandal-plagued state fund 1MDB, Singapore police said on Thursday, as the country’s new government steps up efforts to tackle graft.

At least six countries, including the United States and Switzerland, are investigating claims that $4.5 billion was siphoned out of the fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, founded by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

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“Our Malaysian counterparts have requested for our assistance in relation to their 1MDB-related investigations, and we agreed to a meeting in Kuala Lumpur,” a Singapore police spokeswoman told Reuters in an email.

She gave no details of the assistance sought.

The news comes a week after Malaysian officials met officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which refers to Najib as “Malaysian Official Number 1” in an anti-kleptocracy investigation of 1MDB.

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Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said in 2016 that the Malaysian government would cooperate with U.S. investigations.

Singapore has taken action against several banks and bank officials for failures of money-laundering controls over transactions related to 1MDB, including the closure of units of BSI Bank and Falcon Bank.

Malaysia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has vowed to investigate the 1MDB scandal and act against those who may have abetted, or benefited from, corruption at the fund.

Mahathir, who defeated Najib, a former protégé turned political opponent, in the historic May 9 elections, immediately reopened 1MDB investigations and barred the former leader from leaving the country.

The former prime minister went to Malaysia’s anti-graft agency to give a statement explaining what he knew about $10.6 million transferred into his bank account from the fund.

Last week, Malaysia’s finance minister said funds from deals with the central bank and sovereign wealth fund Khazanah were used by the previous government to meet some liabilities of the troubled state fund.

Malaysian police said they seized cash worth 114 million ringgit ($29 million) and more than 400 luxury handbags from Najib’s home and his son’s apartments as part of the investigation.

Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Reuters

Spain’s Rajoy to face vote of no confidence over ruling party graft case

May 25, 2018

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will face a vote of no confidence over a graft case involving members of his People’s Party (PP) in which a High Court judge also questioned the credibility of his testimony as a witness last year.

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Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attends a 2018 budget plenary session at Parliament in Madrid, Spain, May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

Reuters

It is not yet clear whether the opposition Socialists could secure enough backing to topple the conservative Rajoy, as they would need the support of upstart parties Podemos and Ciudadanos.

The case, which relates to the use of a slush fund by the Conservatives in the 1990s and early 2000s to illegally finance campaigns, has plagued Rajoy since he came to power in 2011. He has always denied wrongdoing.

Rajoy, became the first sitting prime minister in Spain to give evidence in a trial when he was called as a witness in the case last year, prompting calls for him to resign.

Twenty-nine people related to the PP, including a former treasurer and other senior members, were convicted on Thursday of offences including falsifying accounts, influence-peddling and tax crimes. They were sentenced to a combined 351 years behind bars.

In his ruling, the judge said there was evidence the party ran a slush fund for many years and that the credibility of Rajoy’s testimony denying it “should be questioned”.

“(His) testimony does not appear as plausible enough to refute the strong evidence showing the existence of a slush fund in the party,” the judge said.

(Reporting by Julien Toyer and Raquel Castillo; Editing by Peter Graff)

Najib Razak, Malaysian Ex-Prime Minister, Questioned Over 1MDB — $4.5 billion was misappropriated

May 22, 2018

The former leader met with the antigraft agency for the first time since his election loss

Najib Razak arrived at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Tuesday.
Najib Razak arrived at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Tuesday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia—Former leader Najib Razak was questioned for more than four hours during his first visit to Malaysia’s antigraft agency, as investigations continue into a multibillion-dollar scandal that helped topple his government.

Shukri Abdull, chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, said Tuesday that Mr. Najib hadn’t been arrested but was summoned to record a statement on how $10.6 million passed into his bank accounts from a former unit of state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB. Mr. Najib spent hours at the agency’s complex in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital, before leaving midafternoon in a white passenger van flanked by police.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad—Mr. Najib’s former mentor—ordered a sweeping investigation into the allegations swirling around 1MDB, after his election win on May 9. It was a stunning turnaround. Mr. Mahathir, who is now 92 and led Malaysia for 22 years before retiring in 2003, previously engineered Mr. Najib’s rise to the premiership in 2009.

But after allegations emerged in 2015 that billions of dollars had been siphoned from 1MDB, Mr. Mahathir turned against his protégé and the ruling coalition that governed Malaysia since independence in 1957. Instead he teamed up with some of his old foes in the opposition in his bid to hold Mr. Najib to account.

Mr. Najib, 64, arrived at the complex about 9:40 a.m. local time, summoned to answer questions on one specific part of the inquiry: how 42 million ringgit, currently worth $10.6 million, passed into his account from SRC International. SRC was initially established in 2011 as 1MDB’s vehicle for overseas energy investments. It was later placed under the Finance Ministry’s control in 2012.

When he was leaving, Mr. Najib said he would return for more questioning on Thursday. He said he had expanded on the answers he had submitted to an earlier investigation into SRC in 2015. “I want to thank the team who took my statement because they did it professionally. And it will be continued back on Thursday, a big portion has finished,” Mr. Najib said.

Shukri Abdull, chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, speaks during a press conference, Tuesday.
Shukri Abdull, chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, speaks during a press conference, Tuesday.PHOTO: FAZRY ISMAIL/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTER/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Mr. Najib has previously denied any wrongdoing in connection to 1MDB, as has the fund. Malaysian investigations carried out during Mr. Najib’s premiership cleared him.

U.S. authorities allege that at least $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB between 2009 and 2015, including $681 million allegedly received by Mr. Najib, whom lawsuits in the U.S. referred to as “Malaysian Official 1.”

Mr. Mahathir has vowed to get to the bottom of what happened and has appointed or sought the advice of a number of officials sidelined during Mr. Najib’s administration.

Among them is former attorney general Abdul Gani Patail, who was on the cusp of filing criminal charges relating to SRC against Mr. Najib in 2015 before he was abruptly removed from office, according to people involved with drawing up the charges and documents reviewed by the The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Abdul Gani now co-leads a new task force investigating the 1MDB scandal.

Mr. Shukri previously served senior roles in the antigraft agency before being pressured to leave in 2016 after Mr. Najib’s government shut down an initial round of investigations into 1MDB.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Mr. Shukri choked back tears as he recounted how he fled to the U.S. after receiving a bullet in the mail at his home. “We wanted to bring back money that was stolen, [back] to our country. Instead, we were accused of bringing down the country, we were accused of being traitors,” he said.

Once in the U.S., Mr. Shukri said he approached officials there to raise the alarm on the 1MDB case, after spreading rumors that he would instead go to Saudi Arabia. Later, he said he felt he was being tailed, and went to New York, where he sought out acquaintances in the police department. “I got protection from the NYPD and they provided me with three bodyguards,” Mr. Shukri said.

Some people close to Mr. Najib have said the new government is attempting to publicly shame him after a hard-fought election campaign. One described his treatment as unbefitting for a former prime minister. Mr. Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, issued a statement accusing authorities of leaking pictures of bags and jewelry “to provoke public anger.”

Last week, police searched Mr. Najib’s home in the middle of the night and another site linked to his family. They hauled off 284 boxes of luxury handbags and 72 suitcases stuffed with cash and jewelry. The new government also issued a travel ban on Mr. Najib and his wife.

“It is our hope that the authorities would observe the rule of law and due process, to avoid a public trial,” Ms. Rosmah said.

Write to Yantoultra Ngui at yantoultra.ngui@wsj.com and James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/najib-razak-malaysian-ex-prime-minister-questioned-over-1mdb-1526965245