Opposition lawmakers and netizens have criticized Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak after images showed he was accompanied on an official trip to China by his stepson, who US authorities have implicated in a massive embezzlement scam.
In images on Twitter, Riza Aziz is seen emerging along with Najib from his delegation’s plane after it arrived in Beijing on Monday.
The US Department of Justice said in lawsuits filed in July that more than US$200 million was funneled to Riza from a state investment fund that Najib founded called 1MDB.
1MDB is now the subject of investigations in several nations amid allegations that Najib, his relatives and associates plundered billions from it.
The US Department of Justice, which is seeking to recover more than US$1 billion in property and assets that it says were purchased using stolen 1MDB money, said Riza used the siphoned millions to buy luxury real estate and fund his film production company, Red Granite Pictures.
The diverted funds were used specifically to bankroll the Hollywood film The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
“Not only do we have to bear [the cost] of the expensive jet, but now he [Najib] is bringing his stepson, whom the whole world is looking for in relation to 1MDB monies,” opposition lawmaker Rafizi Ramli was quoted as saying in parliament. “Riza should not be given special treatment using the people’s funds. He should be arrested and questioned.”
Malaysian media quoted a spokesman for Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s wife and Riza’s mother, defending his presence, saying China had invited Najib’s whole family.
However, netizens pounced.
“FBI, hurry! Go capture him!” one Twitter posting in Malay said.
Another read: “Scandalous and outrageous. Aren’t the Najibs ashamed of themselves?”
Najib is to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) and Chinese National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang (張德江) during his seven-day trip.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said at a briefing on Monday that bilateral cooperation agreements covering a “broad range” of areas would be signed during the visit. She gave no further details.
University of Tasmania Asia Institute director James Chin said Najib wants to attract more Chinese money to make up for a drop in foreign direct investment from Western nations spooked by the scandal.
He also wants to show that “there are still powerful countries around the world that are still willing to give him the five-star or red-carpet treatment,” Chin said.
“He’s showing the Malaysian domestic audience that a new upcoming power like China is still willing to host him, because it is quite obvious that he can’t get the same treatment in Western capitals anymore,” he said.
Relatives of Chinese passengers on MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing in 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, were clamoring to meet with Najib during his visit.
About 10 relatives were inside the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday attempting to apply for a meeting to raise their questions and complaints about the search for the missing plane.
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