The Debate

Najib Scandal Links in Focus with Ex-Sabah Chief Minister Charges

The charges against Musa Aman announced last week are just part of the ongoing scrutiny around Najib and his allies in a New Malaysia.

Luke Hunt
Najib Scandal Links in Focus with Ex-Sabah Chief Minister Charges
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, Malaysian prosecutors charged the former chief minister of Sabah, Musa Aman, with multiple counts of money laundering. The continued scrutiny on Musa is part of a wider fallout from scandals associated with ousted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who Musa has long been closely allied with.

Musa, 69, was charged with 16 counts of money laundering dating back almost 13 years. He faces up to 15 years in jail and a fine five times the amount involved, if convicted.

The charges should come as no surprise. Musa’s alleged political shenanigans – from his manipulation of links to powerful families to his management of certain media accounts about ongoing developments in what he had effectively turned into a personal fiefdom of sorts –  have been documented in this column and elsewhere. They also follow 41 corruption charges laid against the former prime minister for corruption, money laundering, and criminal breach of trust.

Musa’s links to Najib are also nothing new. Musa’s brother, Anifah Aman, served in Najib’s cabinet as foreign minister, while electoral irregularities in Sabah and Musa’s business dealings with first lady Rosmah had also raised eyebrows.

The charges themselves are also just the latest in a long line of allegations that have dogged Musa. In November, he was charged with 35 counts of graft relating to $63 million. The charges related to allegations that he had received bribes in exchange for offering timber concessions in the east Malaysian state of Sabah, which were placed in accounts based in several countries including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.

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According to Bernama news agency, deputy public prosecutor Rozela Raja Toran told judge Rozina Ayob that legal documents obtained from Hong Kong and Singapore had enabled the charges to be drafted. Musa’s passport has also been seized.

The scrutiny on Musa itself is set to continue, with a trial date of July 15 to 26 having been fixed. As for the depth of the wider issues that his conduct has raised, east Malaysia is continuing to deal with them on an ongoing basis.

Beyond Sabah itself, neighboring Sarawak is also continuing to come to terms with related issues. Particular scrutiny had been on Taib Mahmud, the former chief minister of Sarawak, who for more than three decades amassed a family fortune valued by one Swiss-based fund at more than $20 billion.

As justice is pursued with respect to Musa, questions continued to be asked about whether a similar course will be seen with respect to Taib Mahmud, with ongoing scrutiny into aspects of his dealings. His successor, Adenan Satem, has denounced Sarawak’s illegal timber merchants and some of its law enforcement officers as “corrupt.”

Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt.