Nazir: ‘Najib’s brother’ label not burdensome, first impressions can be changed

Ida Lim
·3-min read
Datuk Seri Nazir Razak at an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur October 31, 2015. — Reuters pic
Datuk Seri Nazir Razak at an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur October 31, 2015. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — Former CIMB Bank group CEO Datuk Seri Nazir Razak has reportedly said that he does not view the label of being the younger brother of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as a burden.

In an exclusive interview with local Chinese-language paper Sin Chew Daily, Nazir acknowledged the labels of being Najib’s younger brother or former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein’s son, but said he could seek to change the first impressions of others towards him.

“You can only play the hand you’re dealt, first impressions will not forever be everything in your life,” he was quoted saying.

Instead of feeling chained by his status as Abdul Razak’s son or as Najib’s brother which may be the first impression that others have of him, Nazir said he could only try to change others’ impression of him through his actions or speech and through relentless effort to shape a “second impression” of him in others’ eyes.

“To me, it’s the second impression that is my life,” he was quoted saying by Sin Chew Daily.

Nazir had spent 29 years at CIMB, with 15 years spent as the bank’s group CEO and subsequently four years as its group chairman. He left the position as CIMB group chairman in late 2018 before his term was due to end in August 2019.

Previously, Nazir voluntarily took a 30-day leave of absence as CIMB group chairman from April 19, 2016 in order to facilitate the bank’s internal investigations on a March 31, 2016 report by the Wall Street Journal, with the report saying that Nazir had handled US$7 million (RM28.6 million) on behalf of then prime minister Najib.

On May 18, 2016, CIMB said a comprehensive review by the boards of CIMB Group and CIMB Bank — assisted by external auditor Ernst & Young and assisted by independent legal advice — concluded that Nazir had not misused his position as group CEO and that there was no inappropriate use of the bank’s resources. Nazir then resumed his position as group chairman the next day.

On October 8, 2019, Nazir again reaffirmed that Najib had transferred funds totalling RM25.7 million to his bank account in 2013, noting that such funds were subsequently fully disbursed in cash to Najib’s representatives for what he understood to be election campaign purposes and that he did not keep or use any of those funds.

Nazir said he had acted in good faith on Najib’s request for help in the 13th general election campaign and was told in 2013 that the funds came from legitimate political fundraising, adding that he was subsequently cleared by CIMB after a review on allegations in the media in 2016 of links between the RM25.7 million and 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

“I have been a vocal and frequent critic of 1MDB, and the idea that the funds that flowed through the account may have originated from 1MDB has been gut wrenching for me,” Nazir had said then, while also stating at that time that he intends to assist the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the latter’s efforts to recover 1MDB funds.

During Najib’s time as prime minister, Nazir was seen as being critical of 1MDB and also of how the Najib-led federal government handled certain matters or the state of affairs in the country.

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