- Officials investigate possible money laundering since mid-2015
- Malaysia premier not under accusation in Swiss probe
Singapore has seized “a large number” of bank accounts in connection with possible money-laundering in the country, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Commercial Affairs Department said in a joint e-mailed statement in response to queries on 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
“In connection with these investigations, we have sought and are continuing to seek information from several financial institutions, are interviewing various individuals, and have seized a large number of bank accounts,” the agencies said on Monday. They added Singapore has been “actively investigating” possible money-laundering and other offenses since mid-2015.
1MDB, the debt-ridden government investment fund of neighboring Malaysia whose advisory board is headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been the subject of overlapping investigations at home plus countries such as Switzerland and Hong Kong amid allegations of financial irregularities.
Swiss prosecutors said in a Jan. 29 statement they are seeking legal assistance from the Southeast Asian nation after a probe they conducted into 1MDB revealed “serious indications” that about $4 billion may have been misappropriated. Najib is “not one of the public officials under accusation” in that investigation, Andre Marty, a spokesman for the Swiss attorney general’s office, said Monday in a statement.
Singapore is cooperating with relevant authorities including those in Malaysia, Switzerland and the U.S., the agencies said in their statement.
“We have responded to all foreign requests for information and have requested for information from relevant counterparts to aid in our investigations,” according to the statement. “Singapore does not tolerate the use of its financial system as a refuge or conduit for illicit funds.”
Respective authorities must be allowed to undertake their investigations, Malaysia Economic Planning Minister Abdul Wahid Omar said on Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
“We must remember that 1MDB is the exception,” he said. “The norm for government-linked companies would be the massive transformation that we undertook some eleven years ago and we have seen this group of 20 large government-linked companies, they have improved in terms of their governance, their performance and their role in nation building. ”
While an initial Malaysian auditor general’s report in July on 1MDB didn’t reveal any suspicious activity, the nation’s central bank had made requests for the attorney general to initiate criminal proceedings against the company. The Malaysian attorney general’s office dismissed the central bank’s requests, which alleged 1MDB breached the Exchange Control Act.
Separately, Malaysia’s attorney general closed the door on a graft investigation into Najib last month, clearing him of wrongdoing over a “personal contribution” of $681 million from Saudi Arabia’s royal family, and funds from a company linked to 1MDB that appeared in his personal bank accounts.
Najib has maintained the funds were not used for private benefit, with $620 million later returned to the Saudi donors, although there hasn’t been a clear explanation as to what the rest was spent on or where that money is now. Both the premier and 1MDB have consistently denied any wrongdoing.