1MDB talks with Malaysia should start quickly, Swiss say

Former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak has been accused of pocketing some of the diverted money from 1MDB

Four days after Malaysia said it will reopen a graft probe into state fund 1MDB, Swiss prosecutors said they wanted to start talks with investigators in the Southeast Asian nation as soon as possible to better coordinate various criminal probes into the sprawling case.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland “is very much interested in renewing dialogue with the competent authorities in Malaysia” and “favours an exchange between partnering authorities at their earliest convenience,” it said in an email sent Tuesday.

Singapore authorities also weighed in. The city-state has cooperated extensively with their Malaysian counterparts on past requests on the matter and is fully prepared to extend further assistance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department said in an email early Wednesday.

Switzerland and Singapore are among at least 10 nations investigating how billions of US dollars were allegedly diverted from the Malaysian economic development fund, some of it funnelled through Swiss-based banks. Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber has been publicly critical of the lack of cooperation his team of prosecutors got from the government of former Malaysia premier Najib Razak, who himself has been accused of pocketing some of the diverted money.

Najib Razak has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia’s attorney general at the time, while the fund has consistently denied any misconduct.

New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Saturday there was enough evidence to reopen a probe into the multi-billion dollar scandal, and said he ordered travel restrictions on Najib Razak, who was planning to leave the country for a break. The nation’s auditor general Tuesday said the office declassified an audit report on 1MDB that was protected since 2016 by the Official Secrets Act.

Advanced funds

The declassified report details known 1MDB transactions and highlights possible anomalies, while cautioning that the audit team had limited access, which had a significant impact on their findings. 1MDB didn’t submit management accounts for the year ended March 2015 and bank statements from foreign financial institutions. The audit team couldn’t access computers, notebooks and servers at 1MDB for the purpose of crosschecking and analysing its findings.

The report found, among others things, that 1MDB used US$73 million of government funds to pay interest on its debt, which isn’t in line with the fund’s original purpose. 1MDB raised US$1 billion from domestic debt and sukuk issuance, of which only US$62.1 million was invested in two property projects, while US$550 million was advanced to the company. 1MDB said in March that all its funds are fully accounted for.

1MDB officers took investment actions against or without full knowledge of the board of directors on several occasions, while giving inaccurate or conflicting information to stakeholders, according to the report, which doesn’t name any of the officers. - Bloomberg