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Rosmah, Jho Low linked to 1MDB inquiry

KUALA LUMPUR — Investigations into state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as well as allegations that funds from the firm were funnelled to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s private accounts have widened, with the authorities looking into the accounts of Mr Najib’s wife, Ms Rosmah Mansor, and calling up a controversial businessman, Mr Low Taek Jho.

Rosmah, Jho Low linked to 1MDB inquiry

Controversial businessman Low Taek Jho (picture) has been called up by the bipartisan parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has been tasked to review the Auditor-General’s investigations into 1MDB. Photo: Jho Low Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR — Investigations into state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as well as allegations that funds from the firm were funnelled to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s private accounts have widened, with the authorities looking into the accounts of Mr Najib’s wife, Ms Rosmah Mansor, and calling up a controversial businessman, Mr Low Taek Jho.

The bipartisan parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has been tasked to review the Auditor-General’s investigations on 1MDB, announced yesterday that it will call up Mr Low for the probe.

PAC chief Nur Jazlan Mohamed said Mr Low, also known as Jho Low, was being summoned in his capacity as adviser to the Terengganu Investment Authority, the predecessor of state-owned 1MDB, as he had helped to establish the firm in 2009.

“It’s up to him,” Mr Jazlan told reporters, when asked if PAC would legally compel Mr Low to appear should the businessman refuse to do so.

“We just want to call him to clarify certain issues,” he said, without elaborating.

Mr Low has denied allegations that he had siphoned off millions of dollars in dealings with 1MDB, which had reportedly amassed a RM42 billion (S$15 billion) debt pile.

Besides being investigated by the PAC, 1MDB is also under investigation by a special task force, which was set up after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a report last Friday alleging that nearly US$700 million (S$944 million) had been moved among government agencies, banks and entities linked to 1MDB, before finally ending up in Mr Najib’s personal accounts.

The task force yesterday announced that it has begun investigating Mr Najib’s wife’s bank account amid allegations by whistleblower site Sarawak Report that RM2 million was deposited into her Affin Bank account in eight deposits within two and a half months earlier this year.

In a joint statement issued by the taskforce, it said the investigation into Ms Rosmah’s bank account was being carried out transparently and professionally.

“The task force hopes that all parties do not question the integrity of Bank Negara, the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in carrying out their duties,” it added.

But Ms Rosmah’s lawyers have denied the allegations.

“My client have [sic] not committed any criminal offence or any misappropriation of funds and strongly denies any links to the funds being from 1MDB,” said Messrs Noorhajran Mohd Noor, the law firm representing the premier’s wife, in a statement yesterday. “The report is deemed to be indecent, menacing, false, and is intended to annoy or harass my client,” the firm was quoted as saying by Malaysian media.

The special task force, comprising the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Bank Negara Malaysia, the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), has frozen six bank accounts, clarifying that none of them are owned by the Prime Minister.

It also raided 1MDB’s office, and the offices of SRC International, Gandingan Mentari and Ihsan Perdana, the companies linked to 1MDB which were allegedly part of the transfer of funds totalling US$11.1 million.

Mr Najib has denied taking funds from 1MDB for “personal gain” and his lawyers have since asked the WSJ to state if the newspaper is accusing the prime minister of misappropriating funds. Mr Najib also said the WSJ’s allegations were part of political sabotage to unseat him, blaming former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for masterminding the claims.

The WSJ released another report on Thursday, saying that Mr Low’s accounts have come under scrutiny amid the ongoing taskforce investigations.

In its latest report, the WSJ claimed that Singaporean police and Bank Negara had discussed some US$529 million in accounts belonging to Mr Low after the central bank in March asked for Singapore’s help in investigating 1MDB. A spokesperson from the Monetary Authority of Singapore reiterated that Singapore will continue to provide full assistance to the Malaysian authorities.

“Financial institutions in Singapore are required to conduct rigorous customer due diligence, regular account reviews, and to monitor for and report any suspicious transactions. MAS will follow up with the financial institutions concerned and will not hesitate to take any action if there are regulatory breaches,” the MAS said in a statement.

PAC was yesterday briefed on the interim report of the Auditor-General’s findings on 1MDB. Besides calling up Mr Low, the PAC also announced that they would recall 1MDB’s then-auditors Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young, as well as 1MDB executives to answer new questions that have come up. “We’ll call all these witnesses in September,” said Mr Jazlan.

When asked if 1MDB’s investments were problematic, Mr Jazlan said: “That’s why we want to call those individuals”. AGENCIES

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