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Malaysia central bank chief quits after 1MDB-linked scandal

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Published: 08:50 GMT, Jun 6, 2018 |
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BANK NEGARA / MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM / IAIS

Malaysia’s central bank governor has resigned, the prime minister said Wednesday, after claims the bank helped the previous regime cover debts linked to a financial scandal by purchasing government land.

Muhammad Ibrahim’s days had looked numbered since the new government, which came to power last month after a shock election win, disclosed the purchase made by Bank Negara Malaysia from Najib Razak’s government.

Former prime minister Najib, his family and cronies, are accused of looting billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in an elaborate fraud that stretched from Switzerland to Los Angeles.

The graft allegations were a major reason voters rejected Najib’s coalition, breaking their six-decade hold on power.

Announcing Muhammad’s resignation, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the Harvard-educated banker’s replacement had not yet been decided on and the king still needed to give his approval.

In late 2017, Najib’s government sold land in Kuala Lumpur for about two billion ringgit ($500 million) to the central bank, according to the finance ministry.

The money raised by the sale was used “to service debt obligations of 1MDB”, the ministry said.

The central bank has insisted the purchase was “at fair value” and said it had given information on the matter to anti-corruption authorities for a review.

Muhammad, who had served with the central bank since 1984, was only two years into his term as governor which was due to end in 2021.

He had replaced Zeti Akhtar Aziz, a widely respected figure who served 16 years as central bank chief but had been at odds with Najib as corruption allegations mounted.

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