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Malaysia’s corruption agency says PM’s millions not linked to scandal

43Prime Minister Najib Razak has faced mounting pressure in the past year over a series of revelations alleging that hundreds of millions of dollars were siphoned off from a state-owned company linked to him

The controversy surrounding the finances of Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, has taken a new twist after investigators confirmed that nearly $700 million was deposited in his personal bank accounts, but said the payment did not come from a state investment bank.

The Malaysian anti-corruption commission (MACC) said that the funds were a “donor’s contribution” but did not disclose the identity of the donor or the reason for such a large contribution.

The findings provided some relief for the embattled leader following earlier allegations that the monies were paid into his accounts by 1MDB, the state investment fund that Mr Najib created and that is now at the centre of a deepening scandal after amassing reported debts of $11 billion.

The Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report, a British-based website, reported last month that investigators looking into 1MDB finances allegedly found that nearly $700 million was deposited into Najib’s accounts.

The prime minister has denied receiving money for personal benefit and has insisted that he is the target of a political smear campaign designed to force him from office. 1MDB has also denied making payments into his accounts.

But Mr Najib’s most influential domestic critic, Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister and his one-time mentor, questioned why a donation was made in his successor’s personal account.

Opposition leaders also seized on the anti-corruption commission statement to maintain pressure on Mr Najib as they questioned why he received a contribution of that size.

The figure nearly matches the $726 million raised by Barack Obama to fight the 2012 US presidential campaign in the most expensive political campaign in history.

Mr Najib sacked his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, and ousted the attorney general who was investigating the 1MDB scandal last week in an apparent attempt to firm up his power-base and silence questions about the deepening scandal.

His government continued its crackdown at the weekend, arresting protesters under sedition laws as they called for his resignation and detaining three officials associated with the anti-corruption commission.

The authorities also suspended two Malaysian newspapers and blocked access to Sarawak Report, which is run by Clare Rewcastle-Brown, a Malaysian-born British journalist and sister-in-law of Gordon Brown.

Mr Najib singled out Ms Rewcastle-Brown in a fiery speech attacking “white people” trying to meddle in Malaysian affairs and topple his government.

“I cannot allow white people, the foreigners, to determine our future. What is their right?” he told a crowd of supporters.

Lim Kit Siang, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Action Party, stepped up the opposition’s criticism after the anti-corruption report.

“Malaysians and the world are watching the country being seized by a madness where the government is warring against itself,” he said.

“Such madness must stop and Malaysians must face up to one and only one issue – for the Prime Minister Najib Razak to convince Malaysians and the world of his innocence and moral authority to continue to lead Malaysia.”

Human rights activists urged John Kerry, the US secretary of state who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday for a regional security summit, to press Mr Najib on the crackdown on dissent.

“John Kerry should publicly tell Prime Minister Najib that peaceful demonstrations are not detrimental to parliamentary democracy, speaking one’s mind is not sedition, and stymieing investigations into corruption will destroy a democracy, not save it,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.