Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has bought millions of dollars worth of luxury items using funds that investigators believe were siphoned from a struggling state development fund, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Thursday morning local time.
It is the latest development in a scandal that has embroiled Najib and led many Malaysians — including former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, once Najib’s political mentor — to demand his resignation.
Last July, the Journal and the London-based investigative news website Sarawak Report reported that Najib’s personal accounts held nearly $700 million in funds that had been traced to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a debt-saddled investment fund launched by Najib during his first months in office in 2009. (Last month, the Journal reported that the sum was larger than originally believed — upwards of $1 billion.)
Najib has since denied all allegations of malfeasance, insisting that the massive sum in his accounts was a foreign campaign donation, and that none of it went towards personal spending.
However, the report in the Journal claims that the Prime Minister and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, spent around $15 million on jewelry, clothes, and a luxury automobile in transactions linked to these same accounts. The report, citing documents from a Malaysian investigation into Najib, describes expenses at a luxury-car dealership in Kuala Lumpur, a jewelry store in Italy, and a Chanel outpost in Honolulu, where Rosmah appears to have spent more than $130,000 in December 2014. Two days later, Najib played golf with U.S. President Barack Obama.
The pace of Najib’s alleged malfeasance is potentially underscored in a report published on Tuesday by the Australian Broadcasting Corp., which claimed that money was moving so quickly into the Prime Minister’s bank accounts that his bank’s money-laundering alarms were triggered.