Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said he feared that a recent decision to return more than RM100 million confiscated from former prime minister Najib Razak could be good news for those accused of stealing.
“In the future, if you steal and you can prove that it (the money) is not from somebody, that it is yours, and that somebody has given you a gift of a billion dollars, then if the court says there is no proof that you have stolen, you keep the money.
“So I think in the future, thieves might take that advantage. If they cannot prove that you have stolen, the money is yours,” he told a press conference today.
He was asked to comment on a report that some RM114 million was returned to Najib in June, after the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed the government’s forfeiture suit for the money said to have been misappropriated from state investment fund 1MDB.
The court ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove that the money was obtained from illegal activities or that it had originated from 1MDB.
Najib had claimed that the money – part of hundreds of millions in cash confiscated during raids by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission weeks after his fall from power three years ago – was being kept by him on behalf of Umno.
MalaysiaNow earlier reported that it could not be confirmed whether Najib had returned the money to his party.
In the 2018 raids on properties linked to Najib, authorities also confiscated a stash of luxury items including jewellery, watches and handbags valued in the hundreds of millions of ringgit, which investigators believe are linked to the 1MDB scandal.
On July 28 last year, the High Court sentenced Najib to 12 years in jail and fined him RM210 million after finding him guilty of seven counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power involving RM42 million in funds from former 1MDB unit SRC International.
Mahathir was also asked for his comment on a question recently posed by DAP MP Tony Pua, on whether the opposition should tolerate the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government in order to stop Umno “kleptocrats” from coming back to power.
“It is up to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the MPs.
“If they give majority support to Umno, then Umno becomes the government. But if no one gets a majority, it is up to the Agong, or it will be decided through an election. But elections cannot be held,” he said.
Yesterday, Pua said any return of Umno to the prime minister’s post would see the party consolidating its political power “to emerge even stronger” after the next general election.
“And when any Umno leader becomes PM, wouldn’t all the kleptocrats be set free (or possibly even regain power)?” Pua asked, adding that the opposition could alternatively tolerate the PN government “just a little while longer” to prevent Umno’s return.