KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia was committed to paying any debt linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) if it had been guaranteed by the government.
"Yes we have to. If the debt implicates the government, we have to pay. Otherwise we will be sued and made bankrupt," Mahathir told a news conference on Wednesday (May 16) when asked if the present government would honour the 1MDB debts .
The newly appointed 92-year-old prime minister also said Malaysia would reach out to Switzerland, the United States, Singapore and Luxembourg to return any 1MDB funds they may have received.
"The focus on corruption is important because we need to get back money which is still in Swiss, US, Singapore and maybe Luxembourg. For this we will contact the governments of the countries to recover the money there."
"The amount is quite big and will help us settle some debts."
Mahathir said he had received briefings from the police and the Auditor-General and had read the recently declassified 1MDB audit report.
Malaysia, under former Prime Minister Najib Razak, had classified the audit report in 2016 under the Officials Secrets Act when the fund's financial troubles were being investigated.
Reports had emerged by that time that about US$700 million from 1MDB had gone to Najib's personal bank accounts. Najib denied any wrongdoing and the attorney general cleared him following local investigations.
"We will take action and, if necessary, we will lodge a police report. If we can make an arrest, we will arrest those guilty. For this, there is no difference between the people to be charged," he said.
Mahathir said it was up to the police to call Najib to facilitate the investigations into the 1MDB.
Asked whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Najib, Mahathir said if the evidence was sufficient, action could be taken. "We will follow by the rule of law and the law applies to everyone irrespective of being a prime minister," said Mahathir.
ANWAR'S NEW ROLE
When asked about Anwar Ibrahim's role in the new administration, now that he is a free man, Mahathir said: "He is not a member of government, therefore his role will be in the party."
"So, what his role will be, tomorrow I hope to have a meeting of the Presidential Council. It is the Presidential Council which appointed all of us and if there are going to be any changes involving Anwar, it is the Presidential Council which must decide," he added.
Anwar was freed from custody on Wednesday after receiving a royal pardon, paving the way for a political comeback following his alliance's stunning election victory.
Anwar, 70, was convicted of sodomy in 2015 in a case he said was aimed at crushing his alliance, which was making gains against Malaysia's long-ruling coalition government. His sentence was set to end Jun 8 but last week's unexpected election win, which ended Barisan Nasional's 60-year rule, led to his swift release and Mahathir being appointed Malaysia's prime minister for the second time.
"It's time-consuming and energy consuming. I don't get much sleep. But I have to do it because they appointed me as Prime Minister. I cannot complain very much," he said.