Fri, Jul 22, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Malaysian PM pledges to cooperate with US probe

1MDB MYSTERY:Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday called for a rally to ‘demand the removal of the kleptocrat who has stolen money’

AP, KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at an event in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday said he is serious about good governance and vowed to “fully cooperate” with a US investigation into a US$3.5 billion scandal involving a state fund he headed.

Najib’s comments were his first since the US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday in Los Angeles that it has initiated action to seize about US$1.3 billion of the missing US$3.5 billion allegedly used to buy assets in the US by people close to Najib.

“Allow the process to take its course, but I want to say categorically that we are serious about good governance,” Najib said.

However, his statement is going to carry little weight with his detractors, who accuse him of being behind the alleged misappropriation of the funds.

Najib has consistently denied allegations of wrongdoing.

The state fund, known as 1MDB, was created in 2009 by Najib shortly after he took office to promote economic development projects.

US prosecutors said fund officials diverted more than US$3.5 billion through a web of shell companies and bank accounts in Singapore, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the US — and the Justice Department wants to seize about US$1.3 billion that officials were able to trace through the US financial system.

The department said the forfeiture demand is the largest single action it has taken.

The money was used to pay for luxury properties in New York and California, a US$35 million jet, art by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet and helped finance the Hollywood film, The Wolf of Wall Street, according to Justice Department filings.

Najib said he viewed the US action seriously, but pointed out that it was limited to the individuals named in the complaints. He said that his government would “fully cooperate” with US authorities.

The complaints name several people closed to Najib, including his stepson, Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, who cofounded movie production studio Red Granite Pictures, and businessman Low Taek Jho, who is close to Najib’s family.

The complaint describes Riza as a relative of an unnamed “Malaysian Official 1” whose approval was needed for the fund’s financial commitments.

“We have to establish facts first. This is a civil action, this not a criminal action. Those people involved will have their say through the court process in the United States,” Najib said.

Malaysian opposition leaders have taken “Malaysian Official 1” to mean Najib.

“It does not take a rocket scientist to figure it out. It’s our prime minister,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, an activist lawyer at a news conference that was also addressed by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, a one-time Najib mentor and now one of his biggest critics.

Mahathir called for a peaceful rally to demand the prime minister’s removal and an independent tribunal to find out the identity of “Malaysian Official 1.”

The rally should “demand the removal of the kleptocrat who has stolen money from the government,” he said.

The US has now joined several other countries, including Switzerland and Singapore, where similar investigations are ongoing into the workings of 1MDB fund.

Singapore yesterday said it had seized assets worth S$240 million (US$177 million) in its probe on possible money laundering linked to 1MDB.

Allegations against 1MDB have gained steam in past months, but Najib has steadfastly denied any involvement or wrongdoing. However, the US complaints are by far the biggest threat to Najib’s credibility.

This story has been viewed 1930 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top