Malaysian anti-corruption officials announced Thursday that they had sent the attorney-general’s office reports on their investigation into a 2.6 billion ringgit- (U.S. $603 million-) deposit into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s private bank accounts.
The value of the ringgit against the American dollar has plummeted in recent months, but the money deposited into his accounts in 2013 has been linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), an indebted state investment fund, whose advisory board is chaired by Najib, according to reports.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) issued a statement saying it had completed its questioning of witnesses in Malaysia, and had obtained evidence from those who claimed to be donors. But, the commission said, it had not completed its investigation of several international financial institutions, claiming that such documents and information could only be obtained through mutual legal assistance (MLA) with other countries involved. Apart from its statement, the commission did not release copies of the incomplete report.
Since news reports about the deposit first broke in early July, Najib has been under pressure to resign but has refused to do so. He has acknowledged that money was deposited into his accounts, but has maintained that he did nothing wrong and that the money was donated to him.
Earlier in December, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the donation came from the leader of a foreign country.
As part of its probe, the MACC interviewed Najib on Dec. 5 about the deposits.
In its statement, the agency said it had asked Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali to obtain the other documents and evidence from foreign financial institutions, as required by the MLA under international law.
The MACC statement did not name any of the financial institutions or countries involved in the investigation.
Najib addresses nation
In his New Year’s message to Malaysia, Najib talked about the ongoing 1MBD probe, complaining about those who had prejudged results based on politicized smears, leaks and incomplete information.
“In doing so, they have harmed Malaysia’s economy and our good name abroad,” he said.
In June, Najib declared that the issue would be resolved by the end of this year.
He claimed that recent deals would see 1MDB’s debt reduced by about 40.4 billion ringgit (U.S. $9.4 billion).
The most recent deal, announced Thursday, is for the sale of 60 percent of equity in Bandar Malaysia to a joint local and international consortium – composed of Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (at 60 percent) and China Railway Engineering Corp. (at 40 percent), which will result in a debt reduction of 7.1 billion ringgit (U.S. $1.65 billion).
“It is therefore clear that 1MDB’s major challenges are now behind it, as I promised they would be last summer, and all that remains is for the deals it has entered into to be completed and the final steps of 1MDB’s rationalization program to complete,” Najib said.
“Now it is time for us to await the outcomes of the inquiries into the company; to take note of any lessons that need to be learned; and to move on together in a constructive manner.”
In September, The Wall Street Journal – which first broke the story about the large amount of cash deposited into Najib’s account – reported that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation had launched a money-laundering investigation into 1MDB. Other investigations have been launched in Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi.
Earlier this week, the U.S.-based Journal published a story citing a cabinet minister as saying anonymously that the large sum of money, which had been deposited into the PM’s bank accounts was spent by his party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), in campaigns and projects around the 2013 general election.
Suhana Osman contributed to this report.