SINGAPORE: Singapore has conducted investigations and taken action against companies and individuals linked to the 1MDB scandal not for political calculations, but because doing so is in its own “national interest”, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament on Monday (Jul 9).
As he gave the House details on the assistance Singapore has given to the Malaysian government on the investigations, Dr Balakrishnan stressed the importance of reaffirming and protecting Singapore’s reputation as a clean, transparent and trusted international financial centre.
“We do not tolerate the misuse of our financial system either as a refuge or conduit for illicit funds,” he said.
“We will continue to assist the Malaysian government in its own investigations. We have also informed the Malaysian government that it can avail itself of due legal processes through our courts to establish ownership and recover any assets seized in Singapore that can be traced to 1MDB.”
Billions of dollars allegedly went missing from the Malaysian state investment fund, which was launched by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak in 2009. Mr Najib was charged in court on Jul 4 in a probe related to the misappropriation of funds from the fund.
While Malaysia’s investigations into 1MDB intensified after Pakatan Harapan took over the government, Dr Balakrishnan pointed out that Singapore has been conducting probes into offences committed here since 2015.
Singapore has shut down two banks and levied fines on others for regulatory breaches, while convicted individuals have also been jailed and fined. “So far, we are the only jurisdiction in the world to have done so,” Dr Balakrishnan said.
He added that Singapore has "responded fully to every single request for information" from Malaysian authorities between March 2015 and August 2016. Singapore has also proactively provided additional information on 1MDB-related fund flows to the Malaysian authorities on multiple occasions.
In total, Singapore has provided 1MDB-related information in more than 30 exchanges during the period, he said.
“Since the change of government in Malaysia, over the past couple of months, Singaporean and Malaysian agencies have met on several occasions on 1MDB matters,” he said. “In fact, the Malaysian authorities have expressed their appreciation to Singapore for our cooperation.”
THREE BILATERAL ISSUES BROUGHT UP BY DR BALAKRISHNAN
The 1MDB scandal was one of three bilateral issues the minister brought up in Parliament, in response to a question from MP Christopher de Souza on the state of bilateral relations between Singapore and Malaysia.
On the 1962 Water Agreement, Dr Balakrishnan reiterated Singapore’s “clear and consistent position” on the issue. He stressed that Singapore would fully honour the terms of the agreement, including the price of water stipulated, and expects Malaysia to also do so.
The minister also spoke briefly about developments on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project, following statements made by Malaysian leaders over the past two months that suggest Malaysia no longer intends to continue with the project.
However, Dr Balakrishnan said the crux of the issue is the sanctity of international law and agreements.
He said he was “heartened” to note comments made by Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng on another project his ministry had undertaken with a foreign commercial party. According to Dr Balakrishnan, Mr Lim had said that should the foreign party not adhere to the terms of the agreement within specified periods, his ministry would be entitled to take certain actions.
“To quote Mr Lim: ‘I think we should look at the agreement. We are bound by the agreement,” he said. “So the point is, Mr Lim Guan Eng himself recognises the importance of maintaining the sanctity of agreements.”