THE Malaysian government will provide U.S. and international authorities its fullest cooperation in their probe on scandal-plagued 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
Najib’s announcement came during his official visit to Germany on Tuesday, amid allegations that 1MDB had misappropriated billions of dollars in taxpayers funds, which triggered the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
After a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Najib was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters that: “We are equally concerned about good governance in Malaysia and the rule of law.”
He added: “So within the bounds of good governance and the rule of law, Malaysia will do its best to cooperate and to do whatever is necessary.”
1MDB, an investment company fully owned by the Malaysian government, was created in 2009 by Najib to promote economic development projects.
But following numerous exposes by foreign media and local opposition lawmakers, it was revealed that billions of dollars from the firm had been misappropriated.
According to U.S. prosecutors, fund officials have diverted more than US$3.5 billion through a web of shell companies and bank accounts abroad.
Despite the allegations, Najib and his administration have vehemently denied any wrongdoing in their handling of 1MDB, from which hundreds of millions dollars were found deposited in the prime minister’s personal bank accounts.
Anti-government dissidents in Malaysia have been campaigning long and hard against Najib, who they believe is corruptly involved in the scandal. One of them is pro-democracy group Bersih 2.0, also known as the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, which is planning to hold a mass rally in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 19 to demand Najib’s resignation.
Najib’s predecessor and respected statesman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who held office for 22 years, is among his harshest critics who is also seeking the current premier’s removal.
Faced with increasing pressure over leaked confidential documents that allegedly show that money from state investment fund 1MDB were transferred into his personal accounts, Najib last year axed his deputy in a Cabinet reshuffle and sacked the attorney general, who was heading a task force that had been investigating the allegations.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was replaced by Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, after he spoke out publicly on the 1MDB scandal.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit seeking the seizure of more than US$1 billion in assets allegedly bought with money siphoned from 1MDB.
The lawsuit only named “Malaysian Official 1” and did not directly mention Najib but the prime minister’s critics believe it refers to him. Abdul Rahman Dahlan, a key leader in Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, recently told a BBC interview that “MO1” refers to Najib.
According to national news agency Bernama, Najib arrived in Berlin on Monday for a three-day official visit following an invitation from Merkel. The visit to the country is Najib’s first as premier as Malaysia looks to strengthen ties with it largest investor from the European Union member state.
With over 400 German businesses operating in Malaysia, a total of RM6.44 billion (US$1.55 bil) has been invested by the European country in the first half of 2016. Investments pouring in from Germany over the last decade had totaled some RM 35 bil (US$8.45 bil).