In 2018, after more than 60 years of being ruled by the same party, Malaysians voted out Najib Razak and his government – the catalyst, the disappearance of billions of dollars of public funds involving Malaysia‘s sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB.
Police raids on Najib’s family homes after the election seized more than $270m worth of cash and luxury goods including Hermes Birkin handbags worth in excess of $10m and 12,000 pieces of jewellery – valued at more than $100m.
For internationally acclaimed Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, none of this came as a surprise. For years, his cartoons portrayed images of government corruption and the extravagance of Najib’s wife, Rosmah.
Under Najib’s government, Zunar faced nine criminal charges for his cartoons, carrying sentences totalling more than 43 years in jail – such was the crackdown on those who dared to speak out.
Now a free man, he says that Rosmah had been “the most powerful person in Malaysia” when she was First Lady.
A controversial Malaysian businessman, Deepak Jaikishan, who claims to have been Rosmah’s confidant and her and Najib’s business partner, backs up Zunar. Accusing the couple of benefitting from government deals, he says, “It went to a point where every project had to go through her. Any cabinet minister who defied her or dared to voice out against her was just x-ed off. You could say she’s the de facto prime minister.”
Najib currently faces more than 40 criminal charges, from money laundering to abuse of power, while Rosmah faces 19 charges for money laundering and tax evasion. Both continue to deny all charges.
101 East lifts the curtain on the alleged corruption of the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and his wife, Rosmah, and investigates how key institutions were rendered powerless as the nation’s coffers were robbed.