People Named in 1MDB Suits ‘Must Clear Own Names,’ Malaysia’s PM Says

BenarNews Staff
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160725-najib-620.jpg Movie producer Riza Aziz (left) appears with actor Leonardo DiCaprio (center) and fellow producer Joey McFarland on the red carpet at the British Academy Film Awards at London’s Roya Opera House, Feb. 16, 2014.

Individuals targeted in U.S. lawsuits that seek to recoup more than $1 billion in money allegedly stolen from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) “must clear their own names,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday.

Although he is referred to many times as “Malaysian Official 1” in court papers filed by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) according to a source close to the investigation, the prime minister seemed to distance himself in a Facebook post from some people close to him who were identified by name as targets in the suits.

“The civil suits brought by the U.S. Justice Department regarding 1MDB must be given space and opportunity for the judicial process to be carried out. Any individual who has been named must clear their own names,” Najib wrote.

“The government will fully cooperate in this case and, God willing, sooner or later we will know the truth. As has often been emphasized, the government will ensure that no public money has been misused,” he added.

When news about the suits broke last week, it deepened a corruption scandal surrounding 1MDB, a sovereign wealth fund that Najib launched in 2009, and armed his political opponents with fresh ammunition in calling for his resignation as PM. Since July 2015, the Malaysian opposition and Najib’s critics have called for him to step down following reports that nearly $700 million in 1MDB-linked cash was deposited into his private bank accounts during the run-up to the 2013 general election.

Najib has acknowledged that he received the money but has denied any wrongdoing. Six months ago, Malaysia’s attorney general cleared the prime minister in a corruption probe into the bank deposit, saying it was a political donation from Saudi Arabia’s royal family used to fund candidates in the 2013 election.

On Thursday, a day after the news broke, Najib told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that his administration was “serious about good governance.”

Over the weekend, the information chief for Najib’s political party stressed that neither the prime minister nor 1MDB were named as parties in the civil cases, by which U.S. justice officials are seeking to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in assets paid for with money that was missing from 1MDB and had allegedly been laundered.

"In fact 1MDB does not have any asset or interests in the United States, and we are confident that this process (civil suit) will also dispel all the wild allegations made against those who are not guilty," Malaysia's Star newspaper quoted Tan Sri Annuar Musa, information director of the United National Malays Organization (UMNO), as saying.

However, an official close to the DOJ investigations into 1MDB told the Wall Street Journal the newspaper that broke the first story about the large deposit into Najib's accounts – that Najib was in fact the person identified more than 30 times in the U.S. lawsuits as “Malaysian Official 1 (MO1).”

The lawsuits cited a statement made in January by Malaysian Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali over the transfer of $681 million accounts belonging to “Malaysian Official 1.”

The lawsuits traced funds that flowed between the account of “Malaysian Official 1” and "Eric" Tan Kim Loong, a business associate of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low who is a close associate of Najib. Both men are named as targets in the suits.

Also named in the lawsuits was Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, the founder of Red Granite Pictures, which produced the Oscar-nominated film "The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The suits allege that Riza’s company received $238 million from transactions linked to 1MDB, of which some of the money was used to fund Red Granite Pictures and to purchase luxury real estate in the U.S. and Britain.

Among assets that the U.S. government is seeking to recover are a private jet, penthouses and condominiums in New York City, properties in Beverly Hills, Calif., including a mansion.


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