Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal: Case Not Closed With Ongoing International Probes

Investigations abroad continue to haunt the nation’s premier despite efforts to downplay the scandal at home.

Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal: Case Not Closed With Ongoing International Probes
Credit: Flickr/Firdaus Latif

On February 1, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that they had seized a “large number” of bank accounts over possible money-laundering offenses tied to debt-ridden state investment fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).  The Singapore authorities also confirmed that the city-state was “cooperating closely” with relevant authorities in Malaysia, Switzerland, and the United States in the ongoing investigation of the so-called 1MDB scandal, which has implicated Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.

Coming just a week after Malaysia’s Attorney General Apandi Ali cleared Najib of wrongdoing for  accepting payments of over $680 million from Saudi royals, the news has dealt a blow to Malaysian government efforts to contain the scandal.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities on January 30 said that they had found “serious indications” that about $4 billion may have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies into 1MDB. The Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber said in a statement that “small portion” of the money was transferred to accounts held in Switzerland by former Malaysian public officials and current officials of the United Arab Emirates.

The attorney general’s office said that it is examining allegations of criminal activity from 2009 to 2013 relating to PetroSaudi International Ltd., a Saudi oil company; SRC International Sdn Bhd, a unit of Malaysia’s Finance Ministry; Malaysian companies Genting Group and Tanjong PLC; and a joint venture between 1MDB and an Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund called the Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Company.

In response, Apandi, the attorney-general, responded on January 30 saying that he would cooperate with his Swiss counterpart. Apandi also stressed that the investigations relating to 1MDB were not the same case as Najib’s political donations. Apandi declared the investigation into Najib closed since no evidence for criminal wrongdoing has been found.

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Meanwhile, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, criticized Swiss Attorney-General Lauber for making his findings and his requests for Malaysia’s cooperation public. The Office of the Attorney-General of Switzerland said that it regarded Zahid’s remarks as a “political statement” and would not be responding to it.

The ongoing investigations reinforce the fact that the case is not closed on the 1MDB scandal abroad, even if the Malaysian government wants it to be at home. Malaysian opposition MP Tony Pua, who sits on the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, has urged the government to cooperate with any foreign investigation into 1MDB, saying that the investigations will “go a long way toward identifying the culprits behind the RM50 billion monster scandal but also removing the perception that the Malaysian AG was biased in favor of the prime minister.”