Malaysia ex-PM Mahathir under investigation, anti-corruption agency says, as probe widens

Malaysia’s anti-corruption authorities on Thursday for the first time confirmed their investigation into Mahathir Mohamad, ending weeks of speculation over whether the former prime minister would be entangled in a corruption crackdown that has implicated several of his family members and allies among the business elite.

Earlier this year, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) charged three people, including two tycoons, for corruption and summoned Mahathir’s two eldest sons for questioning over their assets.

MACC Chief Commissioner Azam Baki said the agency’s probe into Mahathir is linked to the notice issued to his sons requiring that they declare their assets.

“I would like to confirm that in this investigation, he is among those being investigated,” Azam said at a news conference broadcast on national television.

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“I do not wish to reveal the details of the offence committed … let the investigations take their course until a time we feel is suitable.”

Last week, Mahathir challenged investigators to prove that he had allegedly abused power while in government, citing the notice sent to his sons in which he said the MACC had concluded that he had committed the offence.

“As far as I know I have never been investigated. But the MACC notice said I have committed an offence,” the two-time prime minister said in a statement.

Last month, Mahathir’s two eldest sons said the MACC had ordered them to assist in investigations into their father in a case where he was the “primary suspect”. The MACC said it could not say what the investigation was about, Mokhzani, one of Mahathir’s sons summoned by the agency, said in a Bloomberg report.

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Mahathir, who was released from hospital in late March after nearly two months of treatment for an infection, has repeatedly questioned the basis of the ongoing corruption sweep, which he describes as politically motivated.

Critics have accused Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim of using the MACC to launch a witch hunt against his 98-year-old mentor turned arch-rival.

Mahathir had in 1998 sacked Anwar as his deputy, who was later jailed on charges of corruption and sodomy. Anwar and his supporters have denied any wrongdoing. Both leaders spent the next two decades in a bitter feud that defined Malaysia’s politics.

In January, the MACC sent a notice to Mokhzani, 63, and his 65-year-old brother Mirzan – both tycoons in their own right – requiring them to declare their assets. Its investigations followed leaked offshore business records that named the siblings, released in recent years by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a global media network.

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That same month, prominent businessman and long-time Mahathir associate Daim Zainuddin and his wife Nai’mah Abdul Khalid were charged separately with failing to declare their assets.

Malaysia’s “Casio King”, tycoon Robert Tan Hua Choon, was charged in early April with allegedly making false declarations in 2019 to win a US$840 million contract to run the federal government’s fleet of vehicles.

The 83-year-old businessman, widely seen as close to Daim, had previously secured a similar multi-billion ringgit concession to manage the government’s vehicle fleet that ran for 25 years starting in 1993, during Mahathir’s first term as PM.

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