(From AFP| Reuters)
A leading Malaysian politician relinquished his post as a state chief minister Wednesday in what is widely seen as the latest move by scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak to purge potential rivals.
Ruling party politician Mukhriz Mahathir, son of former longtime premier Mahathir Mohamad, resigned as head of Kedah state following an internal party push to oust him, Malaysian media reported.
Mukhriz had been mentioned among potential future contenders for prime minister but his fortunes have flagged due to his outspoken father’s ongoing campaign to oust Najib over sensational corruption allegations.
Malaysia has been seized for more than a year by reports that huge sums of money were diverted from a state-owned investment company closely linked to Najib.
The affair escalated last July when it was revealed that Najib had received payments of $681 million to his personal bank accounts.
Both Najib and the investment company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), strongly deny that the $681 million involved 1MDB money.
Mukhriz, 51, is the latest top figure in the long-ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to suffer in the fallout.
After the Najib payment was revealed, he reshuffled his cabinet to sack several members including his deputy prime minister, who had called for transparency, and the attorney-general, who was heading investigations.
A new Najib-appointed attorney-general last week declared the premier clear of any wrongdoing, claiming the payment was a legal “personal donation” from the Saudi royal family.
That story is widely disbelieved in Malaysia, and the move to exonerate Najib has sparked accusations of a conspiracy to subvert justice to protect Najib.
Authorities in Switzerland, Singapore, the United States and Hong Kong also are looking into money flows related to 1MDB.
Swiss clean chit to Najib
Meanwhile, a Swiss official said Najib is not among those accused of wrongdoing.
The Swiss Attorney General’s office said last Friday that it had identified four cases of alleged criminal misconduct in the suspected misappropriation of about $4 billion from Malaysian state companies.
Andre Marty, spokesman for the Office of Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber, said Tuesday: “In the ongoing criminal proceeding of the OAG (Office of Attorney General), Najib Razak is not one of the public officials under accusation.”
Lauber’s office announced last August that it had opened criminal proceedings related to 1MDB, whose advisory board is chaired by Najib.
Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing, and said the funds were a political donation and he did not take any money for personal gain.