PENANG, Malaysia — Since reports first surfaced alleging that hundreds of millions of dollars had been transferred into the personal accounts of the Malaysian prime minister, investigations into the scandal have met stiff government resistance.
Now they are on life support.
Investigators have been sidelined, the publications of a crusading news organization have been suspended, and a deputy prime minister who asked too many questions was fired.
Faced with what they see as stonewalling at home, opponents of Prime Minister Najib Razak, some from within his own party, are going global, prodding foreign governments and agencies to investigate allegations of graft and money laundering they say are related to the case.
Some international inquiries have already begun.
The Swiss authorities have opened an investigation into assets linked to a sovereign wealth fund that Mr. Najib leads. The Hong Kong police say they are looking into deposits made at a branch of a Swiss bank there. And a state investment fund in the United Arab Emirates is reportedly seeking clarification over a debt payment of more than a billion dollars that was promised by the sovereign wealth fund but may not have been delivered.
John Pang, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, says moves by foreign law enforcement agencies could create pressure for more robust Malaysian investigations, which he describes as verging on moribund.
"I don't think that anyone thinks international efforts will unseat Najib alone," Mr. Pang said. "The hope is that they will embolden, support or fortify the investigative efforts at home."
Toward that end, a relatively junior member of Mr. Najib's party, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, has been touring the globe, dropping off documents at the offices of law enforcement agencies.
"This is the biggest financial scandal we've ever had in our country," Mr. Khairuddin said in an interview in Penang last week. "But those who are involved in the investigation of this case are being arrested and questioned by the police."
Mr. Khairuddin seems to have the backing of influential politicians and disgruntled officials.
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In what he calls a "road show" for justice, he has traveled to Switzerland, Britain, France, Hong Kong and Singapore over the past three months to deliver packets of information related to the sovereign wealth fund at the center of the scandal. The fund, called 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, is chaired by Mr. Najib.
Mr. Najib's critics say the fund has lost large sums of money and taken on expensive debt. The government has struggled to explain the spaghetti-like complexity of its financial transactions across the globe, including funds held in offshore tax havens. The most explosive revelation was the nearly $700 million transferred to Mr. Najib in 2013 from entities reported to be linked to 1MDB.
Mr. Najib has denied wrongdoing, saying he had "never taken funds for personal gain," but has not specifically explained where the money came from.