Najib Razak gives statement to Malaysian anti-graft body on 1MDB scandal

Najib Razak gives statement to Malaysian anti-graft body on 1MDB scandal

Najib MACC
Najib Razak arriving at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) headquarters. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

PUTRAJAYA: Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arrived on Tuesday (May 22) at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) headquarters in Putrajaya.

Najib gave a statement in a probe into a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal linked to debt-ridden state development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The embattled former leader has been ordered by the MACC to explain a suspicious transfer of RM42 million (US$10.6 million) into his bank account.

The sum is just a fraction of billions of dollars allegedly siphoned from state fund 1MDB, a scandal that dogged the last three years of Najib's near-decade-long rule and was one of the main reasons his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lost in the May 9 election.

Hours before his arrival at MACC, two of his lawyers, Harpal Singh Grewal and M Athimulan, withdrew themselves from representing him. Harpal said they withdrew after Najib’s decision to engage former solicitor-general Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden and six other lawyers.

Upon leaving the commission's headquarters after giving his statement, Najib told reporters he would return for further questioning on Thursday.

"I gave a statement in 2015 over SRC and the statement today which I have given is a continuation of that - I have given more details today," he said.

He said he gave statements from 10am to 2.15pm, with a 30-minute break in between.

"I'd like to thank the people who took my statement," he added. "They did it professionally."

According to the audit report on 1MDB, declassified last week by the Auditor-General, an estimated RM42.26 billion (US$10.6 billion) is required to settle its loans and interest between November 2015 and May 2039.

The 1MDB scandal, one of the biggest in Malaysian history, first captured global attention three years ago.

The investigation into the scandal-hit fund was reopened following the shock victory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition at Malaysia’s 14th general election.

Malaysia's new leader, Mahathir Mohamad, who at the age of 92 came out of political retirement and joined the opposition to topple his former protege, has reopened investigations into 1MDB and has vowed to recover money that disappeared from the fund.

A Council of Eminent Persons, appointed by Mahathir, had announced the setting up of a special task force to look into possible criminal conduct of individuals involved in the management of 1MDB.

The task force, made up of members of the anti-graft agency, police and the central bank, will liaise with enforcement agencies in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada and other related countries.

Since losing power, Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have suffered a series of humiliations, starting with a ban on them leaving the country, and then police searching their home and other properties.

US SAYS TO PURSUE 1MDB PROBE

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing since the 1MDB scandal erupted in 2015, but he replaced an attorney-general and several MACC officers to shut down an initial investigation.

Najib has said US$681 million of funds deposited in his personal bank account were a donation from a Saudi royal, rebutting reports that the funds came from 1MDB.

Najib MACC 4
Scandal-tainted former Malaysian leader Najib Razak arrived on May 22, 2018 at the anti-corruption agency to give a statement over a massive financial scandal that helped to bring down his long-ruling regime in historic elections. (Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyayana)

The initial focus of the MACC's new probe is on how RM42 million went from SRC International to Najib's account.

SRC was created in 2011 by Najib's government to pursue overseas investments in energy resources, and was a unit of 1MDB until it was moved to the finance ministry in 2012.

MACC has been able to track the money trail from SRC more easily because transactions were made through Malaysian entities, whereas most other transfers of 1MDB funds went through foreign banks and companies.

The US Department of Justice said on Tuesday it would continue to pursue investigations into 1MDB and looked forward to working with Malaysian law enforcement authorities.

"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that the United States and its financial system are not threatened by corrupt individuals and kleptocrats who seek to hide their ill-gotten wealth," a spokesperson said in an email statement to Reuters.

"Whenever possible, recovered assets will be used to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office," the statement added.

The US filed forfeiture complaints in 2016 and 2017 seeking to recover over US$1.7 billion in assets traceable to funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.

Source: CNA/Reuters/zl

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