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'How can we cover this up?' ex-official asked Najib
MALAYSIAN investigators have played audio recordings of former premier Najib Razak seeking help from people including a member of Abu Dhabi royalty and former prosecutors, to try to untangle himself from the 1MDB scandal in 2016.
One of the clips show him reaching out to Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to secure a meeting to discuss how to resolve the "impasse" relating to 1MDB and Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment in a July 26, 2016, conversation.
That followed the US Department of Justice filing lawsuits to seize assets linked to 1MDB and saying US$3.5 billion had been misappropriated from the Malaysian state fund.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has verified the recordings and can vouch for their authenticity, Chief Commissioner Latheefa Koya told reporters in the administrative capital of Putrajaya. The agency will hand the clips to the police as they show elements of abuse of power, obstruction of justice and fabrication of evidence, which fall under the penal code, she said.
Mr Najib is facing trial on several charges linked to his role in the troubled state fund 1MDB, which is at the heart of global investigations into corruption and money laundering.
He told reporters outside a Kuala Lumpur courtroom: "I am shocked by the revelation and I am studying its content and I have referred the matter to my lawyer."
He said he needed to review the matter when asked to confirm the veracity of the clips.
The nine clips also show conversations between Mr Najib and individuals such as his wife Rosmah Mansor and former anti-corruption chief Dzulkifli Ahmad.
In a recording dated Jan 5, 2016, then-public prosecutor Dzulkifli said to Mr Najib that he was worried that the 1MDB investigation papers were known to about 20 people, and asked, "How can we cover this up?" Mr Dzulkifli also said to Mr Najib that he and former Attorney-General Apandi Ali could handle the matter on the legal side. Mr Dzulkifli was appointed as chief commissioner at the anti-graft agency the following August.
On Jan 26 of that year, Mr Apandi held a press conference clearing Mr Najib of all wrongdoing.
In the former premier's July 2016 discussion with Abu Dhabi's crown prince, he sought help signing a loan agreement for his stepson Riza Aziz's movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. Mr Najib said such an agreement would "show it's a legitimate financing package, not money laundering". He also expressed worry that Mr Riza would be made a scapegoat.
"I don't want him to be a victim when he was totally unaware of the source of money," Mr Najib said in the conversation with Abu Dhabi's crown prince.
In another recording, Mdm Rosmah told Mr Najib to withdraw an arbitration between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi sovereign fund IPIC. They discussed inviting representatives from the United Arab Emirates to settle the matter without arbitration. BLOOMBERG