Mahathir Mohamad, reacts as he sits for a photograph in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photographer: Ian Teh/Bloomberg)

Mahathir Calls on His Cabinet to Declare Wealth, Refuse Gifts

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is putting safeguards in place to prevent graft in Malaysia by requiring his cabinet declare their wealth and refuse gifts more valuable than perishable food and flowers.

“We will do everything possible,” Mahathir told reporters in Putrajaya. “We are in the midst of formulating laws and ways of administration so that we can reduce corruption and maybe even eradicate corruption in Malaysia.”

The requirement applies to his entire government, including himself, all his ministers and members of parliament, with a deadline for the asset declaration to be set soon, he said on Tuesday.

Last week, former premier Najib Razak was charged with several counts of criminal breach of trust and corruption related to 1MDB, the state fund that lies at the center of a multibillion-dollar scandal. Raids by the police at sites linked to Najib found 1.1 billion ringgit ($274 million) of cash, jewelry and luxury handbags, which has prompted public outrage in the country where the median household income was 62,736 ringgit in 2016. Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing and entered a not guilty plea on all the charges.

Mahathir is also drafting a law to ensure political parties don’t return favors to financial donors that support them, citing the U.S. model as a cautionary tale.

“We see the U.S. which has a system of lobbyists and they are paid to influence the government to do certain things for the people who paid the money,” Mahathir said. “That, to us, is corruption. We will not allow that in Malaysia.”

He is considering whether political funding could come from the state budget.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.