A former senior editor has reportedly predicted an imminent departure of several top Umno leaders to the opposition, after the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) lawsuit to seize billions in assets allegedly misappropriated from state investment fund 1MDB.
The South China Morning Post today quoted former New Straits Times political editor Firdaus Abdullah claiming that the leaders have initiated discussions on the matter with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"Umno is jittery to the core. A few senior leaders have started moves to 'discuss' with Dr Mahathir," Firdaus reportedly said.
"They are top Umno members, cabinet members and leaders of the ruling coalition component parties," he claimed, without revealing further details.
Mahathir had recently proposed to set up a new political party that would further the Save Malaysia agenda and remove Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The long-running Umno veteran, who finally quit the party in February, said the move would appeal to those who may not support the existing opposition parties.
The South China Morning Post also quoted former federal minister Zaid Ibrahim saying Umno is coming under "some pressure", but it would take some time for its members to jump ship.
"[Umno members] are timid. It will happen but slowly. I think Najib will be charged by the US eventually, and then you will see people jumping ship," said Zaid.
Malaysiakini is contacting Umno leaders for comment.
'Criminal charges expected next'
The report also quoted a source familiar with the investigation that claimed criminal charges are expected to follow the civil suit filed in US courts.
Amanah Youth deputy chief Faiz Fadzil on Friday urged Malaysians not to be duped into thinking that the DOJ's action is not a serious matter.
Faiz, who is a practising lawyer, said the civil forfeiture suit was just initial action taken under US law, and criminal prosecution would follow.
Najib has consistently denied all wrongdoings linked to 1MDB.
Following the latest US crackdown, Najib's response is that no assumptions should be made until the legal process is over.