May 19, 2018 / 7:18 AM / a month ago

Briton exiled for reporting on 1MDB returns to Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A British journalist whose reporting on a financial scandal at a Malaysian state fund stirred opposition that led to the downfall of disgraced former premier Najib Razak arrived in Malaysia on Saturday after the new government tore up an arrest warrant.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, in this March 1, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo

Clare Rewcastle-Brown, editor of news website Sarawak Report, published details of the alleged transfer of $681 million from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to bank accounts held by Najib.

Najib, who founded 1MDB, has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Born and raised in Sarawak, on the Malaysian side of Borneo island, Rewcastle-Brown had been living in exile after Malaysian authorities issued a warrant for her arrest in 2015, citing activities “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.

Sarawak Report and Medium.com, a blogging platform which hosted her site, were also blocked in the country.

She returned to Malaysia after learning that the sites had been unblocked and the warrant lifted by the new government led Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led the opposition to a surprise election victory last week over his erstwhile protege, Najib.

“It was very relaxed at the airport, no problems with immigration,” she told Reuters in a brief phone interview.

“It’s a big sigh of relief from me.”

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at a news conference following the general election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Since taking office, Mahathir has reopened investigations into 1MDB and Najib’s involvement in the scandal.

Having ruled Malaysia for ten years, Najib was summoned by the anti-graft agency on Friday, while police confiscated truckloads of possible evidence, including jewelry, luxury handbags and cash from premises linked to the former prime minister.

During 2014 and 2015, Sarawak Report published a series of groundbreaking articles, with documents that detailed how money was allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB.

The website also broke the news that former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, who was sacked in 2015, had been planning to charge Najib with graft.

Mahathir, who met with Abdul Gani on Tuesday, confirmed the account at a news conference the next day.

Rewcastle-Brown said she had not been invited to meet with the new administration and hoped only to see friends she had not spoken with after she was blocked from entering Malaysia. She is the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“It was a tough battle for all of us... the previous administration spent so much time and money trying to get me,” she said.

“But I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have a deep down confidence that Malaysia could come through and this could have a good outcome.”

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Kim Coghill

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