KUALA LUMPUR: A task force is investigating allegations that a probe into a Malaysian state-controlled investment fund found hundreds of millions of dollars were transferred to the prime minister’s personal bank accounts, the attorney general has said.
Premier Najib Razak slammed the accusations as “vile” and “malicious” and threatened possible legal action, in his first direct comments since an initial report on the matter by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Friday.
Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail said in a statement late on Saturday that a multi-agency task force was probing “the allegations linked to the flow of funds into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak”.
The WSJ reported that government investigators had uncovered nearly $700 million that moved through government agencies, banks and companies linked to the investment vehicle, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), before ending up in Najib’s accounts.
Najib has dismissed the report as “political sabotage” and 1MDB has denied any wrongdoing, as the allegations have set off a storm in the country.
“I have advised the special task force to follow up on the next course of action,” Abdul Gani said in the statement, which was issued in Malay.
Najib said Sunday he was waiting for advice from his lawyers on how to proceed.
“I refer to the vile allegation against me that I stole $700 million belonging to 1MDB and deposited it into my personal account,” Najib said.
“I have referred this matter to my lawyers and they will advise me on what legal action I should pursue both in Malaysia and abroad,” he added.
“God willing, I will make a decision in the next few days on what action I will take against this malicious allegation.”
Najib was speaking to reporters in Rinching, a town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Kuala Lumpur where he was attending a fast-breaking iftar meal for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan at a local mosque.
In its report, the WSJ cited documents it said it had obtained, including bank transfer forms and flow charts prepared by government investigators.
The newspaper said that the original source of the money was not clear from the investigation, or what happened to the funds after they allegedly went into Najib’s accounts.
Najib’s office said in a statement that the claims were an effort to “undermine confidence in our economy, tarnish the government, and remove a democratically elected prime minister”, and dismissed them as “political sabotage”.
‘We want the truth’
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the second-most-powerful member of Najib’s party, piled on the pressure in comments published Sunday calling on authorities to investigate the allegations in the WSJ report.
“We want the truth. This is a very serious allegation that can jeopardise his credibility and integrity as prime minister and leader of the government,” Muhyiddin said, according to the Sunday Star newspaper.
1MDB was launched in 2009 by Najib, who still chairs its advisory board. Critics say it has been opaque in explaining its dealings.
It is reeling under an estimated $11 billion debt, which has weighed on the ringgit currency that tumbled to its lowest level since July 2005 on Friday, amid allegations of mismanagement and murky overseas transactions.
Critics, including influential former premier Mahathir Mohamad, have called for criminal investigations, but both Najib and 1MDB have denied wrongdoing in the past, saying the company is on a solid footing.
Under pressure, Najib earlier this year ordered his auditor-general to examine 1MDB’s books. Its report has not yet been released.