Najib has till Oct 1 to file defence in suit over $980m funds

The High Court has given Prime Minister Najib Razak until Oct 1 to file his defence in a suit brought by sacked Umno member Anina Saaduddin over US$700 million (S$980 million) that was deposited into his private bank accounts.

Ms Anina's lawyer, Mr Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdullah, said the court also ordered Datuk Seri Najib, who is Umno president, to file affidavits in response to two applications, one of which is to freeze his assets pending the outcome of the main suit for alleged breach of trust.

"This has to be done by Oct 6," Mr Mohamed Haniff told The Malaysian Insider yesterday, adding that Ms Anina can then respond by Oct 15.

Lawyers for Mr Najib and party executive secretary Abdul Rauf Yusoh, who is also named in the main suit, later said they would file an application today to strike out the suit against them.

Mr Najib has denied the deposits came from public funds since a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report in July alleged that the money came via companies linked to debt-laden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Ms Anina filed the suit on behalf of Umno on Aug 28 to demand that Mr Najib account for the money.

The action was taken despite the country's anti-graft agency saying early last month that its investigations showed that the money was a political donation.

The Langkawi Umno division member was sacked early this month after she was found to have breached party rules by filing the suit.

Separately, she filed a suit to challenge her sacking from the party and a second one to freeze Mr Najib's assets to ensure that he cannot move his assets outside the jurisdiction of the court.

Doubts over 1MDB and questions over Mr Najib's alleged involvement have contributed to investor flight and the weakening of the ringgit, which is Asia's worst-performing currency this year.

At an economic forum yesterday, Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz acknowledged the dampening effect of the controversies surrounding 1MDB on the Malaysian economy.

"We don't need any more scandals or political uncertainty... When 1MDB is resolved, we will see a recovery in the currency," she said.

The Prime Minister, who chairs 1MDB's advisory board, has faced calls to resign over the state investment company's struggles to finance obligations from a RM42 billion (S$14 billion) debt racked up in just five years.

The WSJ report intensified the pressure.

The police, central bank and anti-graft agency are still investigating 1MDB and the related transactions.

In recent days, there have been media reports that the authorities in Switzerland, Britain, the United States and Singapore are also conducting probes.

This article was first published on September 22, 2015.
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