World

Evidence Najib received 1MDB funds ignored, probe panelists say

M'sia PM confident charges can be brought against ousted leader over graft claims

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that he was confident that prosecutors will be able to build up a strong case to bring charges against his predecessor Najib Razak over graft claims linked to debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Speaking via video conference at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council Meeting in Tokyo, Dr Mahathir, 92, said: "We are slowly getting to the bottom of things and many of our senior officers are volunteering information accompanied, of course, by documents.

"We think that within a short while, we will have a case against him. We will be able to charge him."

Dr Mahathir added that he is facing the problem of "trying to trust people to investigate him", The Star reported.

"Some of these people who were with him had sided with him, and we do not know who is going to be loyal to this new government."

When asked if he might be willing to cut a deal to spare Mr Najib if he were to offer information that can recover part of the US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) allegedly lost by 1MDB, Dr Mahathir would only say: "No deal."

Dr Mahathir personally ordered travel restrictions on Mr Najib on Saturday after news spread that the latter was about to fly off to Jakarta for a break.

In a related development, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) found evidence in late 2015 that RM42 million (S$14 million) was transferred from a former subsidiary of 1MDB into an account of Mr Najib.

...Many of our senior officers are volunteering information accompanied, of course, by documents.Dr Mahathir on the probe into the 1MDB scandal

But its recommendation for further investigation was rejected by the then attorneygeneral, a member of a panel that reviewed the commission's case files told Reuters.

Mr Najib, who was ousted in a shock election loss on May 9, has consistently denied wrongdoing in connection with alleged graft involving 1MDB, and insisted US$681 million of funds deposited in his personal bank account were a donation from a Saudi royal.

The RM42 million would be in addition to that sum.

In an interview with Reuters, panel member Lim Chee Wee said then Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali had been presented with evidence by MACC in 2015 that Mr Najib had received RM42 million from 1MDB unit SRC International.

Mr Apandi, who was replaced on Monday, declined to probe further, Mr Lim, a lawyer, said.

Mr Lim and panel member P. Sundramoorthy, a criminologist from the Malaysian Science University, also said that Mr Apandi declined repeated requests from MACC to seek legal assistance from foreign governments to trace missing funds from 1MDB.

MONEY TRAIL

Mr Lim said they were unable to follow the money trail because it went outside the country.

"We kept telling the AG... please make mutual legal assistance from other jurisdictions to find out the money trail in those jurisdictions.

"We knew the movement of money in Malaysia, but once it leaves Malaysia, we didn't know where the money went," Mr Lim added.

"Based on the panel review, we felt the case should not have been closed as there was compelling information to say that the case could be further investigated," Mr Sundramoorthy said.

The MACC, Mr Najib and Mr Apandi all declined comment.

- THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS

Dr Mahathir: Anwar to be released today

TOKYO Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said coalition leader Anwar Ibrahim will be released from jail today.

"(In) an initial stage, maybe lasting one or two years, I will be the prime minister," Dr Mahathir, 92, told a Wall Street Journal conference in Tokyo via a video link yesterday.

Dr Mahathir added that Mr Anwar, after his release, would need to seek a seat in Parliament and then might be given a Cabinet post, but would play the same role in the coalition as leaders of the other three parties in the alliance.

"I expect him to play the same role as the leaders of the other three parties.

"There will be no special powers given except as are given to ministers or deputy ministers or deputy prime ministers," he said.

Dr Mahathir, 92, also said he may remain premier for up to two years and will play a role in the background even after he steps down.

Mr Anwar is the de facto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which has the most MPs in Dr Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan coalition, which swept to power in the general election on May 9.

Dr Mahathir sacked Mr Anwar as his deputy prime minister in 1998. Mr Anwar then started a movement known as "Reformasi" - reform - to end the then ruling party's race- and patronage-based governance.

However, he was stopped by charges of sodomy and graft, which he denied but for which he was jailed.

Mr Anwar was imprisoned again in 2015, when Mr Najib Razak was prime minister, after another sodomy charge, which he described as a politically motivated attempt to end his career.

- REUTERS

Lim Guan Eng must clear name before becoming M'sia's finance minister

PUTRAJAYA Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng can only be officially appointed Malaysian finance minister if and after he is cleared of his corruption case.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad clarified that Lim has merely been named finance minister and has yet to take his oath of office.

"Every minister must be someone who is qualified for the position. If there is a case against such a person, we cannot appoint him or her," he told reporters after meeting with ministry secretaries-general to explain the functions and roles of the new government on Monday.

Asked who would take charge of the Finance Ministry for now, he said: "I am not taking charge but they report to me.

"We have a panel that will look into the work at the ministry. Some implementations that can be carried out will be carried out.

"For some, we will need to wait until the minister is appointed."

Dr Mahathir said while there is no alternative candidate for the post, it is understood that where ministries need to make a decision but the head has not been established, matters will be brought to the prime minister.

Lim, 58, is facing trial in Penang, charged with using his position as a public officer to gain gratification for himself and his wife by approving an application for conversion of agriculture land into a public housing zone in south-west Penang by a company, Magnificent Emblem.

He is also charged with using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow at 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8 million (S$950,000), a price he allegedly knew was not commensurate with the property's market value of RM4.27 million.

- THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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