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Malaysian Prime Minister’s Corruption Scandal Inspires Movie Memes

One of the popular images that became viral in Malaysia. It features Prime Minister Najib Razak after Wall Street Journal reported that 700 million US dollars were transferred to his bank accounts.

One of the popular images that became viral in Malaysia. It features Prime Minister Najib Razak after Wall Street Journal reported that 700 million US dollars were transferred to his bank accounts.

Malaysians reacted to a Wall Street Journal investigative report linking Prime Minister Najib Razak to corruption by popularizing the Twitter hashtag #1MDBMovies. It refers to the financial mess involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state-managed investment company which reportedly made several anomalous transactions in recent years.

The US newspaper reported on July 2 that US $700 million (RM 2.6 billion) had been transferred to Najib's personal bank accounts through the 1MDB.

Below are some of the popular #1MDBMovies that made many Malaysians laugh:

Ringgit is the currency of Malaysia

Rosmah is the wife of Najib and is also linked to the corruption allegations.

The alleged main conspirators in the financial scandal appear above.

Najib wrote on his Facebook page that the report is based on fabricated evidence. He accused his political enemies of conspiring with foreigners to bring down the government:

At no point have those making these allegations offered any evidence. All we have heard is that these allegations are based on leaked documents and unnamed investigators. Not once has the source of these documents ever been shown, neither have the documents themselves been provided for verification by lawful authorities.

His lawyers also sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal to clarify the report and hinted that Najib might sue the newspaper:

We demand a reply within 14 days and please let us know whether you have appointed solicitors in Malaysia to accept service legal proceedings.

A few days after publishing the expose against Najib, the Wall Street Journal released some documents that were used as a basis in writing the report:

Immediately after the #1MDBMovies hashtag trended online, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission warned the public to stop spreading false reports:

The public is advised to stop sharing images that have been altered, false news or any speculation on the investigation on 1MDB through social media, including the WhatsApp application.

Some described the statement as a threat to free expression, although the agency clarified later that satire or parody is not illegal.

Najib vowed an impartial investigation of the 1MDB debt scandal, but the opposition is already calling for his resignation. Meanwhile, Malaysian Internet users proved that they can effectively use humor to discuss serious political issues such as corruption, abuse of power, and bad governance.

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