Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah authorised $974m gift to Malaysian PM

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah authorised $974m gift to Malaysian PM

Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah personally authorized a US$681 million (S$974 million) payment to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the BBC has reported.

Malaysia's attorney general revealed on Tuesday that the early-2013 payment, the subject of months of speculation, had come from the Saudi royal family and involved no corruption or improper conduct. Malaysia's prime minister had previously said that the cash was a private donation from a Middle Eastern donor that he declined to name.

Tuesday's revelation was the latest twist in a long-running political scandal around Najib and the country's ailing sovereign wealth fund Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the advisory board of which the prime minister leads.

On Wednesday the BBC reported that the cash - $620 million of which was returned to the donor a few months later - was paid by Saudi Arabia to Najib to help the prime minister win 2013 elections at a time when the Saudis were worried about the global influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the time, the BBC said, Malaysia's opposition alliance included the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which was loosely inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood.

A "well-placed Saudi source" told the BBC that the payment had been authorized by King Abdullah, and the funds came from his personal wealth as well as state funds.

To read the full BBC report, click here.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal, which first revealed in July the large payment to Najib's personal bank account, but said at the time that the cash came via troubled fund 1MDB, reported on Wedneday that the Saudi ministries of foreign affairs and finance had no knowledge of the payment.

And while the BBC wrote that it was not unusual for Saudi Arabia to fund foreign governments in pursuit of its own interests, the WSJ reported that it was told by an unnamed Saudi official that "a royal donation to the personal bank account of a foreign leader would be unprecedented."

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as other government agencies outside Malaysia, are still investigating the payment, the WSJ reported. Malaysia's attorney general said on Tuesday that he had told the country's own anti-corruption body to drop its probe into the money transfer.

To read the full WSJ report, click here.

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