KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian whistle-blower and his lawyer detained for their efforts to expose allegations of corruption against the prime minister were charged on Monday with attempting to “sabotage” the banking sector, according to reports.
Prime Minister Najib Razak faces mounting calls to explain massive sums of money allegedly missing from a state-owned development company he launched, as well as the revelation in July that nearly $700 million in mysterious transfers had been made to his personal bank accounts.
Khairuddin Abu Hassan, a former member of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), was arrested in September after launching an international campaign to expose the allegations.
His lawyer, Matthias Chang, was arrested last week over his suspected involvement in the campaign.
They were charged with attempting to “sabotage Malaysia’s banking and financial services sector,” The Star and the New Straits Times reported.
Khairuddin vowed in court on Monday to press on with his campaign.
“We will fight Najib until the end. I will make sure Najib’s hands are in handcuffs,” he was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini news portal.
Transparency International Malaysia, in a statement released Monday before the charges, said it viewed the arrests with “grave concern.”
Khairuddin and Chang are expected to appear in court on October 26 and could be jailed up to 15 years if found guilty, according to media reports.
In a rare joint statement, Malaysia’s nine state sultans said last week the failure to investigate the allegations swiftly had created a “crisis of confidence” and called for a probe to be revived.
Inquiries have stalled after Najib fired his attorney-general in July and after police raided the anti-corruption agency offices in August.
Khairuddin, aided by Chang, has visited authorities in several countries to call for investigations into the cross-border money flows.
Chang is also a former political secretary to Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s premier from 1981 to 2003, who has led calls for Najib to be investigated.
Regulators in the United States and elsewhere are now reportedly looking into the affair, with authorities in Switzerland and Singapore saying they had frozen some accounts as they probe possible money-laundering and other crimes.
Najib’s allies say the money deposited into his accounts was “political donations” from Middle Eastern sources, but have refused to provide details.
Both Najib and the state-owned development company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), vehemently deny any wrongdoing.