Malaysia's embattled leader faces fresh blow as wife also probed over large cash deposits

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysian authorities investigating Prime Minister Najib Razak said they are also looking into allegations that 2 million ringgit ($529,000) was deposited into the accounts of his wife earlier this year.

The allegation against Rosmah Mansor is another blow to Najib, who is being investigated on suspicion that hundreds of millions of dollars from state investment fund 1MDB ended up in his personal accounts.

The Sarawak Report website said Thursday that investigations into 1MDB showed the money was deposited into Rosmah’s account in a local bank in eight transactions earlier this year. It didn’t say whether the money came from 1MDB.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail said Friday the task force is aware of the allegation against Rosmah even before it was reported and that an investigation is underway.

Rosmah’s lawyers slammed the news report as “menacing and false.”

The account belongs to Rosmah but she didn’t take any money from 1MDB, Noorhajran Mohd Noor Advocates and Solicitors said in a statement.

Rosmah has not “committed any criminal offence or misappropriation of funds and strongly denies any links to the funds being from 1MDB,” the statement said.

The lawyers urged Malaysia’s central bank to investigate the unauthorized disclosure of her bank account details, saying it was a breach of her privacy and will erode investors’ trust in the country’s banking system.

1MDB, set up by Najib in 2009 to develop new industries, has accumulated 42 billion ringgit ($11.1 billion) in debt after its energy ventures abroad faltered. Critics have voiced concern about 1MDB’s massive debt and lack of transparency.

The country’s attorney general confirmed a week ago that he had received documents from investigators that linked Najib and 1MDB.

The existence of the documents, which allegedly show $700 million was wired from entities linked to 1MDB into Najib’s accounts, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper said five deposits were made into Najib’s accounts and that the two largest transactions, worth $620 million and $61 million, occurred in March 2013 ahead of a general election.

The documents sent to the attorney general pave the way for possible criminal charges, and have embroiled Najib in the biggest crisis of his political career.

Najib has denied taking any money from 1MDB for his personal gains and said the allegations are part of a political sabotage.

If charged, Najib would be the first Malaysian prime minister to face a criminal prosecution.

His ruling National Front coalition has been in power since independence from Britain in 1957. However, support for the coalition has eroded in the last two general elections. In 2013, it won the polls but lost the popular vote for the first time.