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Mahathir calls for police investigation of Malaysia’s 1MDB

KUALA LUMPUR — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called for a police forensic investigation into the allegations against those linked to the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), saying the planned audit was not enough to dispel worries over the development fund.

Mahathir calls for police investigation of Malaysia’s 1MDB

1MDB, a pet project of Mr Najib Razak, was hit by losses last year and nearly defaulted on a loan payment. The near miss drove down the ringgit. Photo: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called for a police forensic investigation into the allegations against those linked to the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), saying the planned audit was not enough to dispel worries over the development fund.

The power and property fund, a pet project of current Prime Minister Najib Razak, with assets worth US$14 billion (S$19.4 billion), was hit by losses last year and nearly defaulted on a loan payment. The near miss drove down the ringgit and Malaysian government bonds, and prompted calls from opposition leaders to make the fund’s accounts more transparent. The state fund’s RM42 billion (S$15.7 billion) debt includes a US$3 billion bond sale in 2013 that was one of the largest global issues from South-east Asia.

“An audit of its financials by the Auditor-General as ordered by (the government) earlier this week is not enough to uncover the truth behind the debt-ridden state investment vehicle,” Dr Mahathir said yesterday.

“What is needed is more than the normal audit of the account books. What is needed is a forensic investigation by the police on the accusations made against several people who are involved in managing 1MDB’s finances,” he said in a blog posting.

The blog post soon attracted so many hits that webmasters temporarily suspended the personal blog and limited access to the chedet.cc website to prevent the servers from crashing. They later said they were working to restore access.

Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho has also been drawn into the 1MDB controversy when media reports said he was tied to a company called PetroSaudi International. Whistleblower site Sarawak Report ran an expose accusing Mr Low, better known as Jho Low, of siphoning off US$700 million from 1MDB and using PetroSaudi as a front in a 2009 joint venture. Mr Low has denied any allegations of wrongdoing and said the issue is being politicised.

In the original blog post, the 89-year-old Dr Mahathir warned the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition that it risked losing the next general election if the government fails to clear the air over the numerous allegations levelled against 1MDB.

He added that if the cloud of allegations continued to hang over the fund, the people’s support for the coalition would continue to fall. “And when this happens, there is a strong possibility that BN will lose the general election in 2018,” Dr Mahathir said.

Last Wednesday, Mr Najib ordered the Auditor-General to independently verify 1MDB’s accounts, with the findings to be passed on to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

However, Dr Mahathir said appointing the Auditor-General to audit 1MDB’s books would not answer many questions posed by the people.

“The allegations made against 1MDB are not rash accusations. It comes with clear facts, that is the amount of debts, who are managing them, who received billions of ringgit, the investments made, where the money is being kept and in what form,” he said in the blog post.

“1MDB has not amassed regular debts like the government’s, which is only hundreds of millions. 1MDB has billions of ringgit in debt. Although it is not government, it is wholly-owned by the government. So the government cannot claim that it is the company’s problem and not theirs,” he said.

The Malaysian Insider reported on Monday that Mr Najib had quelled whatever internal dissent there was within his party that may have been brewing over 1MDB, which the opposition claimed could dent the country’s finances if the government-owned company defaults on its mountain of debt.

Mr Najib was said to have held a meeting on Sunday with leaders from 160 United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) divisions, ostensibly to exchange feedback on party matters, but the closed-door meeting was organised so Mr Najib, who is also UMNO president, could address growing dissent over the controversial financial deals by 1MDB, the paper reported. AGENCIES

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