Malaysia’s new police chief said Wednesday that the shooting of the former attorney general’s driver was not linked to the 1MDB financial scandal, as U.S. authorities filed court documents claiming that international witnesses were afraid to talk to investigators.
Unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot the driver of former Malaysian attorney-general (AG) Abdul Gani Patail in the leg as he was about to leave his home in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 29, police said. The victim was rushed to a hospital where he was reported to be in stable condition, officials said.
According to Police Inspector-General Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the shooting was not connected to Abdul Gani, who was sacked from his post by Prime Minister Najib Razak two years ago. At the time, the attorney general was leading an investigation into allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars of money linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had been deposited into Najib’s bank accounts.
“As far as I know, the shooting has nothing to do with 1MDB,” Fuzi told BenarNews.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that a number of potential witnesses into the alleged embezzling of billions of dollars from the Malaysian state fund had contacted American authorities and expressed fears of possible retaliation.
In documents filed at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, FBI Special Agent Robert Heuchling urged the court to protect the identity of its informants in the 1MDB investigation.
“A number of individuals, who have provided information to the government have expressed significant concerns relating to their safety or retaliation if the identities of certain witnesses, especially those located in certain foreign countries, were disclosed publicly,” Heuchling said.
“These individuals have also expressed concern for their own safety and security if their contact with the United States became known,” he said.
Heuchling cited media reports, including about the driver’s shooting in Malaysia, as evidence of “the gravity of these safety concerns.”
The FBI court filings come ahead of Najib’s visit to Washington and meeting with President Donald Trump next week.
American criminal investigation
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice said it had launched a criminal probe related to 1MDB. It requested a judge to put aside U.S. civil forfeiture lawsuits seeking to recover more than $1 billion in assets in the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom that had been purchased with money linked to 1MDB.
“Producing any identifying witness information could result in witness intimidation or jeopardize the safety and security of witnesses – a legitimate concern in this case, given that press reports have publicized potentially retaliatory or threatening acts linked possibly to the 1MDB investigation,” Heuchling said.
The FBI agent also cited the arrest of Khairuddin Abu Hassan, an official with the Malaysia’s ruling party, the United Malays National Organization, on Sept. 1, 2015, by Malaysian authorities after he announced that he intended to travel to New York to provide information about 1MDB to investigators.
Malaysian officials said Khairuddin was arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 or SOSMA. He was charged on Oct. 12, 2015, with attempting to sabotage the country’s banking and financial services.
Heuchling also mentioned reports that Rafizi Ramli, a member of Malaysia’s parliament, was arrested on April 8, 2016, “because he was suspected of disclosing information relating to 1MDB.”
The justice department had filed 29 civil cases since July 2016 as it targeted assets that were allegedly acquired by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low; Riza Aziz, a stepson of Prime Minister Najib; and Khadem al Qubaisi, a former managing director of an Abu Dhabi petroleum investment company.
The U.S. investigation is part of efforts in at least a half-dozen countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and Luxembourg, to track the billions of dollars that 1MDB raised for development projects in Malaysia that were allegedly siphoned off and diverted through money laundering.
The debt-laden 1MDB had been tied to corruption allegations surrounding Najib, who until last year was chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing.