Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak canceled his speech at an anti-corruption conference near Kuala Lumpur after the event's organizers warned him that he may have to address allegations that he transferred millions of dollars from a state fund to his personal account, according to a report Friday. Months before the reports of accusations emerged, Najib had agreed to give the keynote speech.
The three-day event, organized by Transparency International, just outside the capital, started Wednesday and was attended by about 1,000 delegates.
“The prime minister did cancel his appearance at the conference. We told his office that if he came he would face hard questions,” Neil Martinson, director of communications at Transparency International, told the Guardian.
Transparency International Chair José Ugaz said at the conference, according to the Guardian: “No one can be in Malaysia and not be aware of the corruption allegations of recent months and how damaging they are to the country. There is a corruption crisis here.”
“We want to see more progress but that cannot happen while there are unanswered questions about the $ 700m that made its way into the prime minister’s personal bank account.
“There are two questions that need to be answered: Who paid the money and why? Where did it go?” Jose said, adding: “One man could answer those questions.”
The allegations began after the Wall Street Journal published a report in July that said investigators were looking into the $700 million allegedly transferred to Najib's personal account from the indebted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). However, Najib has denied the report, claiming that the money was a donation from the Middle East. Since then, the Southeast Asian country has witnessed several protests, calling for Najib's resignation. Most recently, tens of thousands of people staged protests in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend. However, officials have deemed the gathering illegal.
Last weekend former premier Mahathir Mohamad accused Najib of bribing the ruling United Malays National Organization leaders to stay in power and avoid corruption charges. A report Wednesday said that police officials would be questioning Mahathir over the allegations he made against Najib .
Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim, chairman of the advisory board to the country’s anti-corruption commission, said, according to BBC, that the government meddled in the investigation into Najib’s account. Tunku added that the government took "ill-advised" steps. The commission had concluded its probe verifying that Najib had, in fact, received the money as donation.
Meanwhile, Swiss authorities on Wednesday froze tens of millions of dollars belonging to 1MBD, which were being held in Swiss banks, BBC reported. Switzerland’s attorney general office is also probing people linked to 1MDB, which has a debt of $11 billion, suspecting them of corruption and money laundering.