economics

Najib Queried on 1MDB as Task Force Seeks to Recover Funds

Updated on
  • 1MDB task force hones in on asset recovery, fund repatriation
  • Malaysian authorities renew probe into SRC, a former 1MDB unit

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission questioned former Prime Minister Najib Razak over 1MDB, as a special task force hones in on recovering assets from the troubled state fund.

The commission is compiling evidence and reaching out to two important witnesses to build a case on SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB, Mohd Shukri Abdull, chief commissioner at the anti-graft agency known as MACC, said on Tuesday. He declined to name the witnesses.

Mohd Shukri expects charges to be filed “very soon.”

Najib spent about four hours giving his statement and verifying documents related to SRC on Tuesday, with his session set to resume on Thursday, the former premier said to reporters before leaving the agency.

Najib Razak arrives at the MACC on Tuesday.

Photographer: Rahman Roslan/Bloomberg

Malaysia’s new administration came to power earlier this month in a shock victory and quickly reopened investigations into the fund, whose full name is 1Malaysia Development Bhd. That includes figuring out if any of its money ended up with Najib, who once chaired its advisory board, and reaching out to global investigators who had probed alleged embezzlement and money laundering activities in recent years. Najib has denied wrongdoing.

Read QuickTake Q&A: Malaysia’s Second Chance at Probing 1MDB on Its Own

On Monday, the government announced that a new task force consisting some people involved in a previous probe into 1MDB will lead the renewed investigation. Former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and former anti-graft agency chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed are leading the team along with the police’s former special branch deputy director Abdul Hamid Bador and MACC’s Mohd Shukri.

Mohd Shukri, who was deputy commissioner during the previous probe into 1MDB, said he was threatened with dismissals and arrests, and had a bullet sent to his home. He later retired in 2016.

“My experiences in the SRC International and 1MDB case have been extremely frightening,” Mohd Shukri said at the press briefing. “I almost died because of this case. I was afraid to come back to this country.”

“I have come back to finish what I haven’t finished,” he said.

Taking Action

This task force met for the first time on Tuesday and will focus on bringing back funds and assets, as well as taking criminal action on those involved in wrongdoing in 1MDB under various laws including the penal code, according to a statement.

Mohd Shukri Abdull

Photographer: Rahman Roslan/Bloomberg

SRC International was set up by 1MDB in January 2011 using a 15 million ringgit ($3.8 million) government grant, out of the approved 20 million ringgit, according to an executive summary of a declassified report by the auditor general. SRC received a 2 billion ringgit loan from state pension fund Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) in August of that year, which carries a state guarantee of 2.9 billion ringgit to cover the interest.

Ownership of SRC had been transferred to Malaysia’s finance ministry by February 2012, lowering 1MDB’s gearing ratio to 9.5 times, from 12 times, and removing the state guarantee for 1MDB, according to the report.

Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Najib of wrongdoing in January 2016, and said there is no evidence Najib knew that money from SRC was transferred into his personal accounts. Meanwhile, Swiss investigators said in October 2016 that some $800 million in natural-resource investments from a Malaysian sovereign fund known as SRC appears to have been misappropriated, hidden in part through the creation of a Ponzi scheme.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has since placed Apandi on leave and assigned the solicitor general to take on Apandi’s duties.

The MACC is “trying hard” to get cooperation from countries including United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to access overseas statements, as it only has domestic documents at the moment, Mohd Shukri said. The agency will submit requests for mutual legal assistance, he said.

(Updates with comments from Najib in fourth paragraph.)
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