Senior Chinese leaders were in talks with the Malaysian government in 2016 to bail out a graft-ridden sovereign wealth fund, according to investigative reporting by the Wall Street Journal that adds weight to speculation that Beijing had been involved in the scandal.
A series of meetings organised by the Journal have revealed that Chinese officials told Malaysian counterparts that China would try to deter corruption probes by the US and others into the so-called 1MDB fund, if Malaysia agreed to grant China deals as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.
China also offered to bug the homes of journalists in Hong Kong investigating the fund, the minutes showed.
Shortly after the meetings, former Prime Minister Najib Razak signed $34 billion of railway and pipeline projects to be led by Chinese state-run companies and bankrolled by Chinese banks.
The Najib administration was rife with corruption claims towards the end of his tenure, though he denies any wrongdoing. The latest reports add to suspicions among countries in the region that China is actively expanding its influence using convert and subversive means, to the detriment of host nations.