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David Cameron to raise Malaysia corruption claims

Published 30/07/2015

Prime Minister David Cameron holds a press conference with his Vietnamese counterpart
Prime Minister David Cameron holds a press conference with his Vietnamese counterpart

David Cameron will challenge his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak over allegations of corruption which have triggered a political crisis in the country when the pair meet today.

The Prime Minister, who has used his tour of south-east Asia to speak out against the "cancer" of corruption, will press ahead with the visit despite calls from some Malaysian opposition politicians for him to cancel it.

Speaking in Singapore on an earlier leg of his regional tour, Mr Cameron insisted that nothing would be off the table in his discussions with Mr Najib and the best approach to tackling corruption was not "turning away" from it.

Mr Najib, who has faced allegations that he received about 700 million US dollars (£448 million) in government money, has sacked both the attorney general who had been investigating him and his own deputy, who had been a prominent critic.

Leaked confidential documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal allegedly show the money, from state investment fund 1MDB, went into his personal accounts.

Mr Najib, who has claimed the attack against him is politically motivated, has not disputed the existence of the accounts or the receipt of the funds but has insisted he never used government funds for personal gain.

The Malaysian leader has also been accused of clamping down on any opposition, with around 150 critics arrested for sedition in the last 18 months and he has suspended publication of a newspaper over its coverage of the 1MDB scandal.

At a press conference in Singapore, Mr Cameron defended his stance on corruption and the visit to Malaysia, the final stop on his itinerary.

He said: "I think it is very important to put this on the agenda, to ask other leaders to consider it and yes - to go ahead with visits to other countries where there are issues about these things, because if there are issues it's better to be there talking about them, asking about them, than turning away and looking away.

"So I think that's the right approach, it's the approach I take. When we have these discussions, nothing is off the table. We discuss all of these issues."

Before travelling to Malaysia, Mr Cameron will carry out a series of engagements in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam.

Mr Cameron is the first serving British prime minister to visit Vietnam - a country he had previously explored on a backpacking holiday in 1994.

In the capital Hanoi yesterday he met the communist state's three main political leaders - president Truon Tan Sang, prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and secretary general Nguyen Phu Trong.

The Prime Minister's engagements in Ho Chi Minh City are expected to focus on business, with Mr Cameron keen to boost trade links with the growing economy.

Mr Cameron continued his anti-corruption drive at an event with business leaders in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Prime Minister said there had to be an end to "bribes, kickbacks and inducements" in business deals and praised the Vietnamese government's efforts to create a "level playing field" for firms.

He said: "Commerce depends on many things - on rules, on markets, on great products, on consumers. But for a large market to flourish it also needs to have that element of trust - trust in the rules and in the implementation of rules. Will I get paid? Will what I have bought arrive? Will I get fair redress through the courts if those two things don't happen?

"Then, crucially, for overseas investors, will my company be treated fairly in court if it is in dispute with a Vietnamese firm? Business cannot grow sustainably unless we know these things. They are as key to the success of business as the availability of land, labour or capital."

The Prime Minister also did his bit to boost exports of British ales, telling his audience: "I know that we are standing in the world's third fastest-growing beer market, so let me tell you that we have some pretty good brews down our way as well."

Mr Cameron said the Government would speak to opposition figures and civil society groups in Malaysia as well as Mr Najib.

He told reporters accompanying him on the trip: "It is absolutely right to go ahead with these visits. The issues of corruption are issues in this region as elsewhere in the world.

"I don't think it helps not travelling to a country and turning away. It is better to go and talk about these things."

He added: "It is right to go ahead with the visit, but nothing should be off the table. We should talk about these issues including the specific ones now. We always have discussions with civil society figures, anti-corruption campaigners, opposition leaders and all the rest and that will happen on this visit too."

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