Former Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has called for the removal of current Prime Minister Najib Razak after U.S. prosecutors filed lawsuits linked to state-owned fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
U.S. prosecutors are trying to seize more than $1 billion in assets they said were tied to money stolen from the Malaysian state fund, overseen by the prime minister, and used to finance "The Wolf of Wall Street" film, and to buy property and works of art.
Civil lawsuits filed in federal court on Wednesday did not name Malaysian premier Najib Razak, referring instead to "Malaysian Official 1." Some of the allegations against this official are the same as those in a Malaysian investigation over a $681 million transfer to his personal bank account.
A source familiar with the investigation confirmed that "Malaysian Official 1" is Najib.
"All decisions made with regards to appointment or the usage of the money must have the approval of the advisor to the board, and that advisor to the board is the prime minister of Malaysia. So there can be no doubt that Datuk Seri Najib is responsible," Mahathir said before calling for Najib's removal.
"The time has come when the nation must demand for the removal of the prime minister, must demand for investigations to be carried out by a Malaysian body, the setting up of a tribunal, independent tribunal, not set up on the advice of the prime minister because it is the prime minister who is going to be investigated," he added.
Razak promises full government co-operation into US probe
Razak said his government will fully cooperate with international bodies involved in the 1MDB investigation.
"It needs to be clear that this is a civil not criminal procedure, and limited to the names listed by the DOJ (Department Of Justice). On the government's side we will give our full cooperation to the international bodies investigating," he said.
"Those people involved will have their say through the court process in the United State, so allow the process to take its course. But I want to say categorically that we are serious about good governance so anything that's against the law, we want the process to take its course," he added.
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing. Local investigations have also cleared him, although transactions related to 1MDB are under investigation in at least six countries for money-laundering, fraud and other offenses.
He has also sacked critics of the scandal within his ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), including members of his cabinet.
The scandal does not appear to have hurt Najib at recent polls.
Najib's coalition won big electoral victories in state and parliamentary by-elections last month, as local issues took prominence over the 1MDB scandal.
The investigation is the largest set of cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which seeks the forfeiture of the proceeds of foreign corruption.
The previous largest case in February sought to seize $850 million.
1MDB, which Najib founded in 2009 shortly after he came to office, is being investigated for money laundering in at least six countries, including the United States, Singapore and Switzerland.