..Brazil is a country with a genuinely independent and empowered investigator capable of putting the country’s most powerful under a public microscope. Anti-corruption drives can create political chaos in the short-term, but they can benefit the country in the long-term if sunlight is used properly as a disinfectant.
…That’s not the case with Malaysia. In 2009, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak established a sovereign wealth fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to help the country attract foreign investment and boost its economy. Long story short, by 2015, 1MDB owed investors $11 billion. As investigations of the state fund got underway, it was revealed that $681 million dollars had been deposited into Najib’s personal account. The prime minister copped to the money transfer, but claimed it was a “gift” from the Saudi royal family, about $620 million of which he says he has returned. Two weeks ago, the 1MDB investigation uncovered that the total routed into Najib’s personal account was actually about $1 billion.
Malaysia is a de facto one-party country. All of the country’s six post-independence prime ministers have come from the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). That’s why Najib owes his position to his party, not to the Malaysian people—good news for a man currently polling at 23 percent, the lowest ever for a Malaysian head of government. He has spent the last half-decade strengthening his position within UMNO, and the past year since the 1MDB scandal broke purging his party of potential adversaries. This past summer, Najib fired his attorney general, who had been leading the 1MDB investigation. Malaysia exemplifies how corruption drives can fall short in countries with a single political party and weak governing institutions.