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Mahathir to pursue 1MBD investigation, bans Najib leaving Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur (Kyodo News) -- Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Saturday he will act quickly to free up the Malaysian government investigation into alleged massive looting of a government investment fund and ordered a ban on former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak from leaving the country.
The National Front, headed by Najib, lost power in Wednesday’s election to an alliance of opposition parties led by Mahathir, who was sworn in as the new prime minister the following day.
Najib said Saturday that he is stepping down as president of the United Malays National Organisation, the dominant party in the National Front coalition that had ruled Malaysia since independence in 1961 until suffering a stunning upset in the general election.

Former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. Photo The Star

At a news conference, Mahathir said he will work to recover money lost by 1Malaysia Development Berhad and declassify the auditor general’s report of its investigation into whether corruption and looting played a part.
Najib has been implicated by investigations into 1MDB by a host of countries, with associates of Najib accused of embezzling billions of dollars. At home, however, a domestic probe was thwarted by investigators facing the sack or being transferred, while Najib in 2016 designated the audit report by the auditor general’s office covered by the Official Secrets Act to prevent public scrutiny.
Despite public protests and calls to resign, Najib stood his ground, and no one in Malaysia so far has been charged with any crime.
“I have given instruction to the police to remove the restriction placed under the OSA (Official Secrets Act),” Mahathir said. “They will release the report to me to study before I release it (to the public),” he added.
At the press conference, Mahathir also announced the appointment of Lim Guan Eng, the secretary general of the predominantly ethnic Chinese Democratic Action Party, as the new finance minister. Lim was also formerly the chief minister of the northern state of Penang.
The appointment of an ethnic Chinese to the finance post is a huge departure from tradition as the post has long been filled by an ethnic Malay, usually from UMNO.
The last time an ethic Chinese held the position was 44 years ago.
Mahathir also appointed Muhyiddin Yassin as home minister and Mohamad Sabu to the defense portfolio.
Muhyiddin was Najib’s deputy before he was sacked in July 2015 for criticising Najib publicly over 1MDB issues. And Mohamad is the president of the National Integrity Party, one of the four parties in Mahathir’s new government coalition.
Mahathir said he will announce the rest of his cabinet next week.
Noting that most of the candidates from his alliance lack government experience, Mahathir said during the transition period, a special team of eminent persons has been formed to advise the government on economic and financial matters.
The team will be headed by former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin with members including former central bank chief Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former national oil company Petronas President and Chief Executive Hassan Merican, Hong Kong-based tycoon Robert Kuok Hock Nien and economist Jomo Kwame Sundram.
Najib said in a tweet Saturday that he would comply with the order banning him from leaving the country, after earlier tweeting he would “take a short break to spend time with my family.”

(Latest Update May 14, 2018)

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