Malaysia opposition leader arrested for corruption

This file photo shows Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, right, arriving for a working dinner on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on March 31, 2016. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Malaysia opposition leader arrested for corruption

  • Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was detained after being questioned by anti-corruption authorities
  • He was arrested in “relation to an investigation into abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering,” the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s opposition leader was arrested Thursday on suspicion of corruption, a fresh blow to his party which was ousted at elections this year after six decades in power.
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a former deputy premier and ally of scandal-mired ex-leader Najib Razak, was detained after being questioned by anti-corruption authorities. He will be charged Friday.
He is head of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the lynchpin in a coalition of parties that ruled Malaysia from independence in 1957 until their shock defeat in May polls.
The UMNO has been on the ropes since, with many coalition partners abandoning a party that had become synonymous with widespread graft, divisive racial politics and a rotten ruling elite.
Najib has also been arrested and charged over allegations he oversaw the plundering of state fund 1MDB, a scandal that played a major part in the election defeat.
Ahmad Zahid was arrested in “relation to an investigation into abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering,” the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said.
It gave no further details but local media reported that he was accused of misappropriating 800,000 ringgit ($190,000) from a foundation he chairs to settle credit card payments in 2014 and 2015.
“I urge UMNO members to remain calm and follow the rule of law,” Ahmad Zahid told AFP before his arrest.
The UMNO quickly came to the defense of Ahmad Zahid, who was elected as party chief after May’s polls, and said the arrest was politically motived.
“This action is a strategy to portray Zahid as an untrustworthy and unqualified leader,” said Jalaluddin Alias, a member of the party’s supreme council.
Ahmad Zahid, who also served as interior minister in the last government, stuck by Najib even as other senior figures abandoned him over the 1MDB graft scandal.
US authorities say more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund, with nearly $700 million diverted into Najib’s personal bank accounts. The ex-leader has denied any wrongdoing.


Key ministers back British PM in Brexit battle

Updated 7 min 2 sec ago
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Key ministers back British PM in Brexit battle

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May received the backing of the last remaining pro-Brexit heavyweights in her cabinet on Friday as she battled to salvage her EU divorce deal and her job.
After a tumultuous Thursday in which four ministers resigned, MPs slammed her draft agreement and members of her own party plotted to oust her, May received key support from the top Brexiteers left in her government.
All eyes were on Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a Vote Leave figurehead in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, who had stayed ominously silent as his colleagues quit around him.
But, asked Friday if he had confidence in May, he said: “I absolutely do. It’s absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future.”
Many media outlets reported that Gove had earlier rejected an offer to replace Dominic Raab, whose decision Thursday to quit as Brexit minister over the EU deal sparked fears the government could collapse.
Raab was replaced on Friday by Stephen Barclay, a previously little-known junior health minister and former insurance lawyer who supported Brexit in the referendum.
In an article last year, the Financial Times said Barclay was “a key interlocutor in crucial Brexit planning” and had impressed in financial circles.
Euroskeptics in May’s Conservative party meanwhile plotted to unseat her by tabling letters of no confidence in her leadership.
But International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, another leading Brexit supporter, backed her and her deal.
“A deal is better than no deal — businesses do require certainty,” he said. “What we need now is stability.”
Seeking to win over the public, May made a rare outing on a radio phone-in.
“I truly believe this is the best deal for Britain,” May said of the proposed EU withdrawal agreement.
She added that she was “very sorry” that ministers including Raab had quit.
She also faced comparisons with prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his 1938 appeasement of Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler.
“We are not going to be locked in forever to something that we don’t want,” May insisted.
Brexiteer MPs fear the deal would keep Britain shackled to Brussels long after Brexit on March 29, 2019.
EU supporters say it would leave the UK on worse terms than it has inside the bloc and are calling for a second Brexit referendum to break the logjam.
Later on Friday, May brought an anti-Brexit former minister back into her government.
Amber Rudd, who quit as interior minister in a scandal over immigration earlier this year, replaces Esther McVey, who quit as work and pensions minister over May’s Brexit plan on Thursday.
Despite the support from Gove and Fox, May could yet face a vote of no confidence from her own MPs.
At least 48 Conservative MPs are required to submit letters of no confidence in the party leader to trigger a vote, and 22 have publicly confirmed they had done so.
If May wins such a vote, she cannot be challenged for 12 months.
May’s Conservatives have no majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons, but govern through an agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
However, DUP lawmakers were among MPs from all sides who lined up in the chamber on Thursday to warn they could not support her Brexit deal.
The pound slumped on Thursday amid fears the turmoil at Westminster could result in Britain leaving the EU with no deal, but rebounded slightly on Friday.
The 585-page draft deal aims to ensure a smooth divorce from the EU after more than four decades of membership and outlines a transition period for both sides.
Key provisions seek to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect citizens’ rights and settle Britain’s outstanding payments to the bloc.
EU member states have until Tuesday to examine the deal and to agree the wording of a parallel political statement setting out goals for the bloc’s future relations with London.
A special EU summit to seal the hard-fought Brexit agreement is scheduled for November 25.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Brexit advocates who peddled an “absurd political promise” must now choose to either accept the deal or face “economic disaster.”