Malaysia PM Najib defends 1MDB, says it has done a fair share of good
Najib says state fund has helped send Muslims for haj, build houses and sponsor students
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has taken a different tack to defend the debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
He said its money had been used to send 5,700 Muslims for the haj pilgrimage, build houses and sponsor students' education since 2011.
Presenting offer letters to 1,100 more community leaders to perform the haj this year using funds from 1MDB, he expressed the hope that people who had benefited from 1MDB would speak out about its "good work".
Fund transfers involving money from the Malaysian state development fund are under investigations by the financial authorities in several countries, including Singapore.
Yesterday, former wealth planner Yeo Jiawei was sentenced to 54 months' jail in a Singapore court for money laundering and cheating in relation to the probe involving 1MDB.
The former banker with BSI Singapore was handed a 30-month term in December on charges of trying to tamper with witnesses in the probe.
Complaints filed in a United States court last month alleged that from 2009 through 2015, more than US$4.5 billion (S$6.2b) belonging to 1MDB was diverted by officials of the fund and their associates.
Mr Najib, who until last year was chairman of 1MDB's advisory board, has denied wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia's Attorney-General.
Officials of the Najib administration have denied that the Premier was personally involved and that funds totalling nearly US$700 million found in his personal accounts in 2013 were donations from Saudi Arabia.
Mr Najib on Tuesday put up a different defence of 1MDB, saying money from the state fund had benefited Malaysians.
"1MDB's profits are used to help the people in terms of education and housing programmes, among others, where hundreds of millions have been spent, but such positive roles of 1MDB are not mentioned (by its critics)," he said, as quoted by New Straits Times newspaper.
During disasters such as floods, Mr Najib added, 1MDB had come forward to help in relief efforts.
"It has done its fair share of good," he said.
Under a "special haj programme" that started in 2011, 1MDB spent RM57 million (S$18.3m) to finance 5,700 people to perform the haj, The Star reported yesterday.
Former premier Mahathir Mohamad has frequently levelled allegations of financial mismanagement and graft at 1MDB.
He had earlier said that haj performed through "stolen money" would not be "haji mabrur", or divinely accepted.
Mr Najib responded: "This is not right. People, including a former prime minister, who want to pursue this, are not doing the right thing.
"I hope those who have benefited from programmes and sponsorships by 1MDB will help spread information about the good work it has done."