Malaysian leader Najib Razak will finally meet with U.S. president Donald Trump next month. Will the U.S.’ hulking investigation of 1MDB come up?
The 1MDB affair has rolled through at least six countries, including Singapore and Switzerland, but in Malaysia, the scandal has barely registered.
Malaysia is a key ally of the U.S., so a visit between the two following the election of Donald Trump makes sense. Prime Minister Najib Razak will visit Trump next month, «The Wall Street Journal» reported, citing sources.
This visit promises to be special: U.S. prosecutors allege that Razak – and his stepson – are tied to 1MDB funds, the newspaper reported, citing lawsuits.
$27 Million Bauble
Razak has to contend with a series of embarrassing allegations tied to 1MBD, including one that his wife, Rosmah Mansor, received a $27 million Fifth Avenue designer diamond necklace bought with 1MDB funds. The newspaper didn’t report on whether she would accompany her husband to Washington.
Najib has apparently lawyered up: the newspaper reported that he has hired a law firm headed by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, who is mentioned by name in U.S. documents, has also taken counsel along with his father and his production company.
The meeting comes as observers expect Najib to call elections as soon as this year. Najib has boasted of playing golf with Trump previously, and also shared a game with previous leader Barack Obama.
Whether his political coziness will sway justice authorities into slowing or ending the probe is unclear. Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions inherited the investigation from his predecessor, and has said nothing publicly about 1MDB since taking office eight months ago.
Besides 1MDB, Malaysia and the U.S. will be keen to discuss China’s expanding influence in the South China Sea.
NAJIB TO PLAY TRUMP FOR A FOOL?
Meanwhile, according to Reuters:
US President Donald Trump plans to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sept 12 at the White House, the White House said on Wednesday (Aug 23).
The US Justice Department has been conducting a criminal probe of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund founded by Najib Razak, which is facing money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.In civil lawsuits, the Justice Department has sought to seize a total of about US$1.7 billion (S$2.3 billion) in assets it says were bought with misappropriated 1MDB funds.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the plan for a meeting, said Najib has been eager to emphasise his friendship with Trump at a time of US scrutiny over alleged corruption in the Malaysian administration.
The Journal quoted people close to Najib as saying he would likely use the White House visit to try to play down the possibility of further investigations.
Trump looks forward to “discussing ways to strengthen and broaden our bilateral relationship and expand regional cooperation with one of America’s closest partners in South-east Asia,” said a White House statement announcing Najib’s Sept 12 visit.
US relations with Malaysia, which the United States sees as an important partner in standing up to China’s extensive territorial claims in East Asia, had improved under former President Barack Obama, who in 2014 became the first US president to visit the country in 50 years.