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Malaysia's Najib says he didn't abuse power or derail probes

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - 21:50
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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he hasn't abused his leadership positions, according to court documents filed as part of his defense against graft allegations made by his biggest critic, former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he hasn't abused his leadership positions, according to court documents filed as part of his defense against graft allegations made by his biggest critic, former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Mr Najib is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Mahathir and two others in March accusing him of misuse of power and interference in investigations into a troubled state investment company, said the statement filed on Monday and distributed by his lawyers on Tuesday.

The premier has battled corruption accusations and fended off efforts by Mr Mahathir over the past year to have him removed him from office. Mr Najib has denied wrongdoing and was cleared by the attorney general this year over revelations that US$681 million appeared in his accounts before the 2013 election. The Barisan Nasional coalition won that vote by its slimmest margin yet and lost the popular vote for the first time.

Mr Najib "actively and deliberately" sought to derail probes by local agencies into 1Malaysia Development Bhd as well as the money that ended up in his private accounts, Mr Mahathir's lawyers said in a statement in March. Mr Mahathir and two former officials of Mr Najib's party, the United Malays National Organisation, are seeking damages of at least RM2.6 billion (S$864.69 million) plus interest to be paid to the government.

"The defendant will further contend that he has not abused his position as the prime minister, finance minister, Barisan Nasional chairman and UMNO president to further his alleged corrupt practices," according to the defense statement. 

"The defendant has not interfered, continuously interfered with the due process of law, nor has he used his position as an alleged public officer" to disrupt investigations into claims of impropriety or misconduct on his part, it said.

Mr Mahathir, who was Malaysia's longest serving leader when he stepped down in 2003, has waged a public campaign to get Mr Najib out. He has previously warned BN risks being voted out at the next election which must be held before the end of 2018, although he has tempered his remarks in recent times amid disarray in the country's opposition.

Mr Najib has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing over the funding scandals, saying last year he and Mahathir disagreed over economic policies and that no "individual, however eminent," should try to interfere with his leadership. He retains the backing of the bulk of powerful divisional chiefs in UMNO.

The government said the US$681 million Mr Najib received was a personal donation from the Saudi Arabian royal family and most of it was later returned. Mr Najib has maintained the funds were not used for private benefit.

BLOOMBERG