Malaysia’s Najib spent nearly US$250,000 at Trump hotel amid 1MDB probe: report

A newly released report from a US Democrat-led oversight committee includes evidence that former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his delegation spent lavishly while staying at a Washington hotel owned by ex-US president Donald Trump in 2017, at the same time the US Department of Justice (DOJ) was seeking to recover US$1 billion in assets stolen from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB.

The report from the Committee on Oversight and Accountability – released on Thursday and titled “White House for Sale: How Princes, Prime Ministers, and Premiers Paid Off President Trump” – makes the case that, while Trump was in office, “he received at least US$7.8 million from 20 governments, including the governments of China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Malaysia, through his businesses”.

The report’s section on Malaysia details how in September 2017, then president Trump hosted Najib for an official state visit in the midst of the DOJ probe into the purloined funds from 1MDB, which was co-founded and managed by Najib.

Najib was eventually found guilty on seven corruption charges related to the 1MDB scandal and is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington in March 2021. Photo: AP

According to the report, which is based on new documents produced by Trump’s former accounting firm, Mazars USA, Najib and his delegation stayed at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for 10 nights and spent a grand total of US$248,962.

Based on the documents from Mazar detailed in the report, Najib stayed in the hotel’s presidential suite during his visit, for which the Malaysian government was billed US$10,000 per night. Other charges mentioned in the report include US$750 for “Furniture Movement (Dressing Room)” and a charge of US$1,500 for a “Personal Trainer”. It also says he “spent thousands of dollars to have a butler assist in serving multiple meals”.

The report also notes that, in addition to Malaysian government officials, Elliott Broidy, “a former top fundraiser for Mr Trump who was lobbying the Trump Administration on behalf of Malaysian interests as an unregistered foreign agent”, also stayed at the hotel four times in September 2017, racking up a bill of US$5,345.

Elliott Broidy, a former fundraiser for ex-US president Donald Trump, in 2008. File photo: AP
Broidy is known to have also been paid millions by infamous Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, who has been accused of orchestrating the 1MDB scheme and has been a fugitive from the law for several years since the scandal broke.

Broidy eventually pleaded guilty to charges related to his undisclosed lobbying work for Malaysia. The DOJ’s press release announcing his plea detailed Broidy’s efforts to persuade the Trump administration to end the DOJ’s 1MDB investigation, including an attempt to organise “a golf game between the President and the Malaysian Prime Minister to allow the Malaysian Prime Minister to raise [a] resolution of the 1MDB investigation”.

Trump ended up pardoning Broidy shortly before leaving office.


The legacy of Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal on politics and corruption-fighting

The legacy of Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal on politics and corruption-fighting

While Najib’s delegation may have spent extravagantly on its Trump hotel stay, the report contains evidence that other governments enriched the former US president’s businesses even more, including “more than US$5.5 million from the Chinese government and Chinese state-owned enterprises”.

In January 2021, the US Supreme Court shut down lawsuits claiming that Trump violated constitutional bars against a president accepting income from foreign sources, saying the cases were moot since Trump had already left the White House.

Those cases stemmed from the so-called emoluments clause of the US Constitution, which prohibits public officials from receiving gifts, payments or titles from foreign states without permission from Congress.

Trump entrusted the management of his real estate empire to his sons after taking office in 2017, although he held onto his shares in the Trump Organization, which brought in US$435 million in revenue in 2018.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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