Malaysia charged two men Monday for allegedly providing information to foreign authorities investigating reports of corruption in a state-run development fund, an official said, dpa reports.
Government critic Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Matthias Chang allegedly met with investigators in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain and France over the summer.
Swiss and other authorities have been looking into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund since a report in July that $673 million from it ended up in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s own accounts.
Najib has denied wrongdoing, saying the money came from foreign donations for an election campaign.
Khairuddin and Chang were charged with attempting to sabotage Malaysia’s banking and financial sectors, a deputy public prosecutor said.
Chang said he was charged under section 124 of the penal code, which prohibits sabotage of the state, the Malaysian Insider reported after his arrest on October 8.
The charges carry up to 15 years in prison, deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Masri Daud said.
Hassan, who was arrested on September 23, is a former official of the the ruling UMNO party. He filed a formal police complaint in August demanding an investigation into suspected corruption in the development fund in August.
Chang was formerly a political aide to Mahathir Mohamad, a long-time premier of Malaysia and now an outspoken critic of current leader Najib.
Both men’s cases were being treated under the procedures of the 2012 Security Offences act, which makes them ineligible for bail.
The use of the new law move was criticized Najib’s opponents.
The government is defining sabotage according to their own needs, Mahathir said at a news conference at Putrajaya Monday..
He, along with some leaders of the ruling party, Monday demanded resolution of the 1MDB state fund scandal and condemned a crackdown on dissent, signaling a divide within the coalition.
Voices of dissent from within the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) were quickly silenced with a July cabinet reshuffle that ousted Najib’s critics, including Muhyiddin.
“We see a climate of fear among the people,” Mahathir told reporters. “The government is now defining the law according to their own needs. We are here to show that we are against the abuse of the law on our country.”