Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s corruption case involving millions of dollars ended as it began: with a lot of unanswered questions.
The scandal erupted in July last year after the Wall Street Journal reported that Najib transferred almost $700 million from the heavily indebted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to his personal bank account. The Malaysian PM chairs 1MDB's advisory board.
Although he denied the allegations, people started doubting the ruling coalition led by Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party. Protesters took to the streets, demanding the leader’s resignation.
In fact, there came a point when the matter came under scrutiny of American investigators.
After several months of investigation into the matter — interestingly by Najib’s hand-picked prosecutor — the case has been closed, however, on a very strange note.
Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared the prime minister of corruption charges, saying the money, $681 million, came as a "gift" from the Saudi royal family. Since no criminal offense was committed by Najib, no further action against him would be taken.
As if the sudden revelation of Saudi Arabia’s role in the entire matter wasn’t odd enough, Apandi made it all the more confusing by not mentioning what exactly Najib do to merit such an overwhelmingly generous amount.
"There was no reason given as to why the donation was made to PM Najib, that is between him and the Saudi family," Reuters reported the attorney general as saying during a “hastily” called news conference.
But the unusual part of the controversy doesn’t end here.
Apandi also stated Najib returned $620 million to the Saudi royal family because it had not been utilized. So, what happened to the remaining $61 million? That’s still a mystery.
Another crucial point that everyone seems to be missing here is a statement from UMNO’s Kuantan division chief Wan Adnan Wan Mamat.
Last August, Wan Adnan claimed the $681 million came from Saudi Arabia as a token of appreciation to Malaysia for "championing Islam" and fighting against the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Not only Malaysia received the donation from Saudi Arabia, two or three more countries also received, including the Muslim community in the Philippines and (Southern) Thailand," Wan Adnan was quoted as saying. He added the money went directly to Najib’s because it was a personal donation.
So, if the money was indeed Saudi Arabia’s way of saying “thank you” to Najib, why didn’t Apandi mention it? Or was Wan Adnan lying about it then?
There has been no official comment from Saudi Arabia on the matter. But even that might not be sufficient to answer all of the questions stated above.
The only person who can, unfortunately, is Najib himself.