“The law must take its course and if the attorney general finds sufficient evidence of acts that are criminal then the AG takes the decision,” Mahathir said during an interview with Talk to Al Jazeera.
“One of our [election] promises was that we would honour the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judiciary, so I cannot interfere with what the attorney general wants to do,” he added.
Former Prime Minister Najib has denied corruption charges over the disappearance of millions of dollars from the 1MBD state investment fund, as part of a graft probe while he was in office.
The charges relate to funds that were allegedly transferred from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD) into Najib’s personal account.
In 2015, it emerged that four billion dollars had gone missing from the 1MBD sovereign wealth fund, and nearly $700m was allegedly transferred into Najib’s bank account.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family, which he had since returned.
Mahathir said in the interview he was disappointed as Saudis did not deny involvement in the case, but he also said that so far there is no proof of the country’s role.
“So, we can’t accuse Saudi Arabia, unless, of course, there is proof that Saudi Arabia has tried to interfere in Malaysian politics,” Mahathir said.
Mahathir was elected in May, when his alliance of four parties, the Pakatan Harapan or Alliance of Hope, trounced the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which had ruled the country since its independence from the British.
The new government reopened investigations that were stifled while Najib was in office, setting up a special task force to deal with the allegations.
So far, police have questioned others politicians as well as Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansour and his stepson, Riza Aziz.
Malaysian authorities have also frozen hundreds of bank accounts believed to be linked to 1MBD.
Mahathir served as Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, overseeing the transformation of the country from an economic backwater to one of Asia’s leading economies.
He is known as the father of Malaysia‘s modernisation, and he steered the country through the Asian crisis of 1998, turning it into a so-called “economic tiger”.
After his electoral victory, Mahathir said he will work on obtaining a royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy who was jailed for sodomy and corruption.
Anwar, who is serving a five-year prison sentence, maintains the charges were politically motivated after he and Mahathir fell out in the late 1990s.