Malaysia prosecutor, fund will help in Swiss graft probe

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia’s top prosecutor said Saturday he will co-operate with Swiss authorities, whose investigation into an indebted Malaysian state investment fund indicated that $4 billion may have been misappropriated from Malaysian state-owned companies.

Switzerland’s top prosecutor said he sought Malaysia’s help after the investigation into 1MDB confirmed that some money was transferred into accounts held in Switzerland. The accounts were held by various former Malaysian public officials and both former and current public officials from the United Arab Emirates.

The Swiss office said in a statement Friday that criminal proceedings were opened last August against two former 1MDB officials and individuals unknown on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.

The $4 billion would have been earmarked for investment in economic and social development projects in Malaysia.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who formed 1MDB in 2009, became embroiled in the scandal after documents leaked last year suggested some $700 million deposited into his accounts may have come from entities linked to 1MDB. Malaysia’s Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali on Tuesday cleared Najib of any wrongdoing, saying it was a private donation from the Saudi royal family.

Apandi said in a statement Saturday that Malaysian investigations into alleged graft by 1MDB are still ongoing.

“My office intends to take all possible steps to follow up and collaborate with our Swiss counterparts, and we look forward to receiving the findings of their investigations and materials,” he said. He said the materials will be reviewed along with Malaysia’s own probe to determine the right course of action.

1MDB also said in a statement that it was willing to co-operate in the Swiss investigation but it hasn’t been contacted.

Swiss prosecutors said so far, four cases involving allegations of criminal misconduct from 2009-2013 have emerged involving several companies including SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary, and PetroSaudi, which was 1MDB’s first joint venture partner.

It said the Malaysian companies have not commented on the losses they are believed to have incurred. It said its probe is to establish whether “losses on this scale have been sustained.”

Apandi stressed the investigations into 1MDB are separate from the probe into the money in Najib’s accounts.

Apand has said that $681 million channeled into Najib’s accounts in early 2013, just before national elections, was a Saudi royal donation and that Najib had returned $620 million. He also cleared Najib of graft at SRC, now a government company, over another 42 million ringgit ($10.1 million) from SRC that was deposited into Najib’s account in late 2014 to early 2015.

The move was greeted with public skepticism. The anti-corruption agency has appealed Apandi’s decision.

Apandi reiterated that his office “exhaustively” reviewed the anti-corruption agency’s report and ordered the cases against Najib closed after finding no evidence of wrongdoing.

“Any attempt by media organizations to conflate the two sets of investigations is irresponsible and prejudice,” he warned.

Najib has been fighting intense pressure to resign over the financial scandal and 1MDB’s woes in his biggest political crisis since he took power in 2009. 1MDB is mired in 42 billion ringgit ($10.1 billion) in debt and has been selling assets to clear its debts.

Support for Najib’s ruling coalition has eroded in the last two general elections. It won in 2013, but lost the popular vote for the first time to an opposition alliance.