Malaysia’s prime minister has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing after the attorney general said nearly $700m channelled into his private accounts was a personal donation from Saudi Arabia’s royal family.
The announcement has ended months of uncertainty for Najib Razak, who has come under intense pressure to resign over the issue in his biggest political crisis since he took power in 2009.
But the announcement by attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali did not clear up the mystery over the money as he did not say why the Saudi royals made the donation to Mr Najib, nor give any details on what the money was to be used for.
Mr Apandi said investigations by the country’s anti-corruption agency showed that no criminal offence was committed as the $681m transferred into Mr Najib’s accounts between March and April 2013 was “given without any consideration” by the Saudi royals as a personal donation.
He said Mr Najib returned $620m to the Saudis in August 2013 as it was not utilised. He did not say what happened to the remaining $61m.
The anti-corruption agency met and recorded statements from witnesses, including the donor, he said.
“I am satisfied that there is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly,” Mr Apandi said.
“Based on the evidence from witnesses and supporting documents submitted, I am satisfied that no criminal offence has been committed in relation to the said ($681m) donation.”
Mr Najib has been grappling with deep unhappiness over his leadership, with massive street rallies in August calling for his resignation, after documents leaked in July suggested that about $700m was deposited in his private bank accounts from entities linked to indebted state investment fund 1MDB.
He denied any wrongdoing and later said the money was a donation from the Middle East. Since then he has expelled critics in his government, sacked the then attorney general probing him and cracked down on the media that had helped keep him in power.