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Dr M wants Najib investigated for 1MDB 'lies'

KUALA LUMPUR — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad today (May 24) called for a criminal probe to be launched against Prime Minister Najib Razak for lying about the financial status of debt-ridden state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), in what is the latest salvo of his sustained campaign to remove his successor.

Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister speaks during the International Conference on "The Future of Asia" in Tokyo, Friday, May 22, 2015. Photo: AP

Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister speaks during the International Conference on "The Future of Asia" in Tokyo, Friday, May 22, 2015. Photo: AP

KUALA LUMPUR — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad today (May 24) called for a criminal probe to be launched against Prime Minister Najib Razak for lying about the financial status of debt-ridden state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), in what is the latest salvo of his sustained campaign to remove his successor.

But in a statement responding to Dr Mahathir’s claims of a cover up, the Finance Ministry yesterday attributed the matter to a reporting error, as an official from the Ministry was given wrong information by 1MDB in the first instance.

In a blog post, Dr Mahathir wrote: “I am very sad that I cannot avoid from saying that the Prime Minister had lied. The first lie was that no cash from 1MDB was brought back (from Cayman Islands).”

“Secondly, there was no cash in the BSI Bank in Singapore. It was clear from the latest reply that there was no cash totalling US$1.103 billion (S$1.47 billion) that was in the BSI Bank but documents that were kept in it. What are the documents is unclear but what is known is that it is clearly not cash,” Dr Mahathir wrote in his blog.

Dr Mahathir added that any “cover up” or attempting to hide a mistake in government affairs was an offence under the law. 

“There is an element of crime in this case, which needs the police to investigate, and if the money cannot be found, then the legal process has to be taken against the relevant parties,” he said. He also singled out government officials, the central bank and 1MDB, which he claimed had contravened Section 218 of the Penal Code together with Mr Najib. 

In a parliamentary reply to opposition lawmaker Tony Pua in March, Mr Najib said the balance of the investment redeemed by 1MDB from its subsidiary in Cayman Islands totaling US$1.103 billion were assets in US dollars and stored in the BSI Bank in Singapore.

The Malaysian Finance Ministry has justified the move as helping to facilitate easier withdrawals since regulations set by the Malaysian central bank mean that the latter’s approval was needed for transactions above RM50 million (S$18.5 million).

However, the BSI Bank later clarified with authorities that there was no actual cash in the account. Criticism has been mounting over the Finance Ministry’s wholly-owned investment vehicle, established in 2009, which has chalked up debts of up to RM42 billion, backed by Putrajaya. 

The auditor-general is currently looking through 1MDB’s books, with a preliminary report which is expected to be submitted to the parliament next month. 

Dr Mahathir has openly called for Mr Najib to step down over the 1MDB scandal, among the other issues. The 1MDB scandal has rocked ruling party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). 

A leaked video of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s remarks during a closed-door UMNO event, where he called for the government to sack the entire 1MDB board or risk being booted out by voters, has drawn divided views, with some senior figures saying that he has undermined Mr Najib while others pointed out that he was just voicing a personal opinion.

Former Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin urged the party to call for an emergency meeting and decide if Mr Muhyiddin should face action for his remarks. Others like Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has played down the issue. 

“It was a speech in an UMNO closed-door event ... that shouldn’t be any polemic because it was an address by the party deputy president to the members,” he said today. “Whoever had leaked the video may have his own agenda to pit our leaders against each other,” Mr Khairy added.

Meanwhile, an UMNO deputy division chief has apologised to the party for recording the video but party vice president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi does not accept the apology. 

“I have contacted him personally. He has said sorry. And I told him, there will be no forgiveness for you. The damage is done. 

“He has to shoulder the consequences … Action will be taken. It will be brought to the party’s management board,” Mr Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, told reporters today. AGENCIES

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