KUALA LUMPUR: US President Donald Trump plans to meet Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal at home, on Sept 12 at the White House, the White House said in a statement.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has been conducting a criminal probe of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund founded by Najib which is facing money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
In civil lawsuits, DoJ has sought to seize a total of about US$1.7 billion in assets it says were bought with misappropriated 1MDB funds.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which first reported the plan for a meeting, said Najib has been eager to emphasise his friendship with Trump at a time of US scrutiny over alleged corruption in the Malaysian administration.
WSJ quoted people close to Najib as saying he would likely use the White House visit to try to play down the possibility of further investigations.
Trump looks forward to “discussing ways to strengthen and broaden our bilateral relationship and expand regional cooperation with one of America’s closest partners in Southeast Asia,” said a White House statement announcing Najib’s Sept 12 visit.
Relations between Malaysia and the US soured last year after DoJ filed lawsuits in connection with the 1MDB scandal and Najib sought to strengthen ties with China.
Relations with Malaysia, which the US sees as an important partner in standing up to China’s extensive territorial claims in East Asia, had improved under former President Barack Obama, who in 2014 became the first US president to visit the country in 50 years. – Reuters