David Cameron presses Malaysian PM on corruption claims

Patrick Wintour Political editor in Kuala Lumpur
Thursday 30 July 2015

Najib Razak asked by Cameron about imprisonments of political opponents and allegations he misused $700m of government money

David Cameron has pressed the Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak over claims he has imprisoned his political opponents and taken government money for personal gain, at a private meeting between the two men in Kuala Lumpur.

In a meeting at Najib’s residence, Cameron also urged his Malaysian counterpart to accept the importance of a free press, the need for ethics in business, and the fight against corruption. He stressed the importance of an open economy and open society.

Cameron has made the fight against corruption a key theme of his four-day trade mission to south-east Asia, and the British prime minister had arrived in Malaysia in the week in which corruption claims prompted Najib to sack both the attorney general, who had been investigating him, and his own deputy, who had been a prominent critic.

Najib has faced allegations that he received about $700m (£448m) in government money.

Leaked confidential documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal allegedly show how the money, from state investment fund 1MDB, went into his personal accounts.

Najib, who has claimed the attacks against him are politically motivated, has not disputed the existence of the accounts or the receipt of the funds but has insisted he never used government funds for personal gain.

British officials said the controversies were raised by Cameron, including the conditions in which Najib’s political opponent, Anwar Ibrahim, is being kept in prison. Anwar has been sentenced to five years on dubious charges of sodomy.

Cameron sent his national security adviser, Sir Kim Darroch, to meet Anwar’s daughter to discuss the prison sentence, and the state of the political opposition.

Cameron’s call for the Malaysian political class to fight corruption came as he pitched the country’s financiers the chance to invest in £17bn worth of UK infrastructure projects ranging from a Leeds orbital road route, Slough town centre and prime residential properties along the Thames.

He said he wants London to become the global capital of Islamic finance.

Cameron launched a pitch book to Malaysian investors at a lavish reception entitled Battersea and Beyond in the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

He said: “Look around London and you will see how Islamic finance has transformed the skyline, from the Shard to Chelsea Barracks. With the exciting plans for the Battersea development, that trend is set to continue.

“But our ambitions in this industry go far beyond our capital city, as you will see from the carefully selected projects in this brochure. It gives you a taste of the many opportunities that we think would be attractive to investors using either Islamic or conventional finance – and it is the first brochure of its kind from any G7 or EU country”.

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