There was a shock election in Malaysia that brought a former leader, Mahathir, back to power. Much of the campaign centered around the conduct of Prime Minister Najib Razak who has been at the center of a multi-billion dollar scandal around the 1MDB development bank from which money seems to have been siphoned.
Mahathir moved quickly to prevent Najib from leaving the country and announced that he would re-open the 1MDB case which was being pursued by Switzerland, Singapore and the US. For the art market, the case has uncovered a number of paintings that were traded at exceptional prices several years ago, especially Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Head of a Madman (above):
Mahathir said he was instructing the auditor-general to remove any restrictions from the Official Secrets Act on publicizing the details of a report into 1MDB, and planned to replace the attorney-general, though he did not name a candidate for the role. The police would submit the report to him and he would study it, he said.
The U.S. Department of Justice claims billions were siphoned from 1MDB, which was set up in 2009 to support infrastructure projects. Najib faced allegations some of 1MDB’s money ended up in his personal accounts before an election in 2013. He acknowledged around $700 million appeared in his accounts but said it was a donation from the Saudi royal family and most of it was returned. He was cleared by the attorney-general of wrongdoing.