KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian anti-corruption campaigners expressed concern Wednesday (Apr 15) that the United States had returned US$300 million in funds stolen from the scandal-hit 1MDB state fund to an "unelected" government.
Billions of dollars were plundered from the sovereign wealth fund and spent on everything from a luxury yacht to artwork in a fraud allegedly involving Malaysian ex-leader Najib Razak and his inner circle.
Najib was ejected in 2018 elections largely due to public anger over the scandal, and a new reformist government then began the process of recovering money stolen from the investment vehicle.
On Tuesday the US Justice Department announced it had sent US$300 million stolen from the fund to Malaysia – and that it had now returned or helped the Southeast Asian nation recover more than US$1 billion in funds and assets lost in the fraud.
The US is among several countries investigating the scam.
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, a Malaysian activist group, welcomed the return of the funds, but said it was worried they were in the hands of an "unelected" government which had "ruthlessly seized power from the people".
"It is imperative for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his cabinet to show a maximum level of transparency," the group said in a press statement.
"Malaysians have that fundamental right to know and to participate in the return of stolen assets."
The Malaysian activists urged the government to be clear about how the money would be used.
"The people of Malaysia are the rightful owners of the returned funds," the activists said.