KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said that when he took office in May, he found that government accounts were falsified, files were hidden and that there was truth to allegations of misappropriation from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as alleged in civil claim suits filed by the US Department of Justice's (DOJ).
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia's Conversation With, Mr Lim said he was "dismayed" by what he found on his first day in office after Pakatan Harapan won May 9 polls.
"On the first day I reported for duty, I was confronted with the fact that there was a systematic attempt to deceive the people of Malaysia," he said.
"Number one, there was falsification of the government accounts. Number two, there were hidden files. And number three of course, there were red files ... where access is only limited to one or two people".
The former Penang Chief Minister said that on top of Malaysia's total debt and liabilities which exceeded RM1 trillion (US$251 billion), he discovered state investment firm 1MDB's insolvency, with RM50 billion in payments due in years to come.
Investigations linked to the fund advised by former prime minister Najib Razak were opened in at least six countries. The United States' DOJ is seeking to recover more than US$1.7 billion in assets believed to have been obtained with money misappropriated from 1MDB.
No one has been charged in Malaysia since the claims came to light but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday (Jun 19) said that Malaysian investigators already "have an almost perfect case" against the principal suspects, with "a number of charges" expected to be brought against Najib.
Asked about the US allegations, Lim told Channel NewsAsia that "many of them are true".
However, the Finance Minister does not expect to recover all that Malaysians have lost through 1MDB, saying it will be hard to trace.
"We’re going to get back some of them ... not all of them," he said.
"We have had very good productive meetings with foreign countries. I have been informed that they have offered assistance, and at a recent meeting with the Ambassador of the United States to Malaysia, Her Excellency assured me that they are activating investigations and they will intend to return any monies found, stolen by 1MDB from the people of Malaysia".
Mr Lim said the US ambassador conveyed that "one of the options considered very strongly is to monetise these assets, so that they can be returned back to the Malaysian people".
"For example if there are paintings that are seized, what is the use of these paintings to us Malaysians? Sell it off, monetise it, and you can bring the money back to the Malaysian people," he said.
Mr Lim told Channel NewsAsia he expects one more scandal linked to the Finance Ministry to be unveiled soon.