Amid the flurry of corruption and abuse of power charges against him, Najib Abdul Razak has reiterated his "innocence" in the 1MDB scandal.
In an interview with Financial Times in Kuala Lumpur, the former prime minister, not once, but twice, appeared unrepentant when questions were framed to him regarding his purported role in the scandal.
Reiterating his claim that the US$681 million (RM2.6 billion) in his personal account was a donation from a member of the Saudi royal family, Najib insisted the amount was not a political slush fund.
"I wouldn't describe it as a slush fund, but I would describe it as a donation (from Saudi) to ensure the government of that day continues to be in office," he claimed.
The Pekan MP further painted pictures of the country's "achievements" during his premiership when the journalist asked him whether he looked back on his stint with "any sense of regret, or shame, or repentance", and that he was possibly responsible for the "terrible dark period of corruption" that the current Pakatan Harapan government was trying very hard to fix.
His answer was: "Well, if you look in terms of the major indicators, okay? I mean, look at (it) in terms of the growth figures. Last year, we achieved 5.8 percent. The nine years of the premiership, the average growth was 5.5 percent. If you look in terms of the benefits we have given to the people, they were essentially benefits enjoyed by the large proportion of the Malaysian people."
Najib, who is also the former finance minister, also reportedly asked the Financial Times to photograph him in front of the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX, below), a Kuala Lumpur property development that was launched by a 1MDB subsidiary. The project is named after Najib's father, Abdul Razak Hussein.
Najib currently faces 32 charges of money laundering and abuse of power related to both the 1MDB and its former subsidiary SRC International while his wife Rosmah Mansor faces 17 charges of money-laundering.
Ready to face trial
Asked whether he was "unrepentant" and what future does he see for himself, as well as Rosmah, Najib said he was ready to face his trial.
"I have to face a trial. In a way, I welcome it, because it will give me an opportunity to clear my name [...] nobody wants to go to jail, obviously," he said, adding that in the interest of getting a fair trial and upholding the independence of the judiciary, he welcomed international observers to follow the court proceedings.
During the interview, Najib also insisted that the more than RM100 million in cash seized from properties linked to him following BN's loss in the 14th general election belonged to Umno which he once led.
On the luxury handbags and jewellery seized from the properties, Najib admitted it was not "good electioneering" but maintained that they were gifts from monarchs and heads of governments during anniversaries and visits and so forth.
On his election loss, Najib reportedly blamed everyone else but himself.
He reportedly accused his political rivals within Umno of an earlier "conspiracy" to unseat him, the opposition for a propaganda campaign of false promises to the electorate, and the voters for not appreciating the economic growth under his administration.
"We had a sterling achievement. The only thing that would pin us down was 1MDB."
Najib further expressed regret for not recognising the discontent among the voters.
"I was shocked [...] we didn’t expect such a catastrophic result," he was quoted as saying.