Malaysia’s attorney general said on Tuesday that nearly $700 million channelled into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s private accounts was a personal donation from Saudi Arabia’s royal family, and cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.
The announcement capped months of uncertainty for Mr. Najib, who has been fighting intense pressure to resign over the financial scandal in his biggest political crisis since he took power in 2009.
But the announcement by Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali did not clear up the mystery over the money as he did not say why the Saudi royals made the donation or give details on what the money was to have been used for.
Mr. Apandi said investigations by the country’s anti-corruption agency showed that no criminal offence was committed as the $681 million transferred into Mr. Najib’s accounts between March and April 2013 was “given without any consideration” by the Saudi royal family as a personal donation.
The anti-corruption agency met and recorded statements from witnesses, including the donor, he said.
Mr. Apandi said no reason was given for the donation, which was a matter between Mr. Najib and the Saudi royals. He said there was no proof that the money was given as an inducement or reward to Mr. Najib in return for a favour.
“I am satisfied that there is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly,” Mr. Apandi said. “Based on the evidence from witnesses and supporting documents submitted, I am satisfied that no criminal offence has been committed in relation to the said ($681 million) donation.”
There was no immediate comment from Mr. Najib, who has been grappling with deep unhappiness over his leadership, with massive street rallies in August calling for his resignation after documents leaked in July suggested that about $700 million was deposited in his private bank accounts from entities linked to indebted state investment fund 1MDB.
Mr. Najib has denied any wrongdoing and later said the money was a donation from the West Asia. He has reportedly told ruling-party events that the money was “political funding”. Since then, he has replaced critics in his government with loyalists, sacked the then attorney general probing him and cracked down on the media that had helped kept him in power.
Saudi government officials in Riyadh had no immediate comment about the investigation. It also was not mentioned on the state-run Saudi Press Agency early Tuesday.
Opposition lawmaker Tony Pua slammed Mr. Apandi’s decision, saying the fact it was a personal donation does not rule out corrupt motives or transaction.
Mr. Pua said Mr. Apandi provided no new or convincing information to support his decision.
The scandal started with investigations into 1MDB, which was set up in 2009 by Mr. Najib to develop new industries. But it amassed 42 billion ringgit in debt after its energy ventures abroad faltered. Critics have long voiced concern over its massive debt and lack of transparency. Mr. Najib still chairs its advisory board.
The political scandal partly contributed to the Malaysian currency plunging to a 17-year low last August.
Mr. Apandi also cleared Mr. Najib of graft at government-owned SRC International, a firm linked to 1MDB, over another 42 million ringgit from SRC that was deposited into Mr. Najib’s account between Dec. 2014 and Feb. 2015.