World

Najib: We have to establish facts first

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (photo) said yesterday that judgment should be withheld until all the facts are known after the US government filed lawsuits seeking to seize US$1 billion (S$1.3billion) in assets bought with money stolen from a state fund he oversaw.

Mr Najib, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, said yesterday that the US lawsuits were "a civil not a criminal procedure".

"And we don't want to come to any conclusions until that process is done," Mr Najib told reporters at an event in Kuala Lumpur.

"We have to establish the facts first. I want to say categorically that we are serious about good governance."

Mr Najib said the government would give its full cooperation to international investigations of the 1MDB case.

The US Justice Department lawsuits filed in a federal court on Wednesday did not name Mr Najib, but referred to "Malaysian Official 1" numerous times.

Some of the allegations against this official were the same as those in a Malaysian investigation into a US$681 million transfer to Mr Najib's personal bank account.

The lawsuits said $681 million from a 2013 bond sale by sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was transferred to the account of "Malaysian Official 1".

A source familiar with the investigation confirmed that "Malaysian Official 1" was Mr Najib.

In Malaysia, the hashtag #MalaysianOfficial1 was trending yesterday.

The civil lawsuits said that a total of $3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, a fund Najib established in 2009 and whose advisory board he chaired. No criminal charges have been filed.

US prosecutors are seeking to seize US$1 billion that they say was diverted from 1MDB into luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London; valuable paintings (see report above); and a private jet.

The lawsuits pose a potentially thorny issue between two countries that have grown closer during the administration of President Barack Obama, who has visited the South-east Asia country twice in the last two years.

SEPARATE ISSUE

Mr Najib, however, said the lawsuits would not affect ties.

"This is a separate issue, involving individuals," he told reporters.

A top White House official distanced Mr Obama from the Justice Department's litigation.

"The simple answer is we do not have any control over Justice Department actions," Mr Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told Reuters on Wednesday during a visit to Myanmar. - Reuters.

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