KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A surprising disclosure in Malaysian Parliament that former Prime Minister Najib Razak has asked to be given a house and land estimated to be worth 100 million ringgit ($24 million) despite his graft conviction has sparked fierce reactions.
The matter was raised by ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who questioned if it was true the government will approve Najib’s request as a reward for his tenure. Najib took office in 2009, but was ousted in 2018 general elections following public outcry over a massive corruption scandal involving the 1MDB state fund.
Finance Minister Zafrul Aziz confirmed Najib’s application but didn’t give further details. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob hasn’t commented on the issue.
Najib defended his request, saying it was his right as the country’s former leader.
“The government gave me three plots of land to choose from, so I chose one. … Housing is given to all former prime ministers,” he said.
He said the 100 million ringgit price tag was given by a website linked to his rivals, and accused them of using the issue to tarnish his reputation and his party ahead of Saturday’s local election in southern Malacca state.
If the Cabinet approves the request, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said it would be “immoral and utterly absurb” because Najib was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison last year for graft linked to the 1MDB scandal. Najib is appealing his conviction and is also on trial for several other corruption cases tied to 1MDB.
Anwar, whose alliance has a pact to support Yaakob’s government in exchange for reforms, said his side was never informed about Najib’s request.
He warned in a statement Thursday that his alliance would be forced to review its pact with the government if it is approved. Ismail was sworn-in in August, marking a third change of government since 2018 elections after a series of political turmoil that triggered the collapse of previous administrations.