THE Malaysian government must reopen domestic investigations into the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund scandal to prove its latest probe involving former prime minister-turned critic Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not a “diversion”, the opposition said.
Federal Opposition Leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said this in response to the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to look into billions of ringgit in losses incurred by the central Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) via foreign exchange trading during the Dr Mahathir’s rule in the 1980s and 1990s.
“The Cabinet‘s decision to set up a RCI to investigate the foreign exchange trading loss by Bank Negara is most welcome,” the People Justice Party’s (PKR) president told a press conference on Thursday, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today. Dr Wan Azizah is also the wife of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader currently in jail for sodomy who is still seen as a major threat to the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno).
“Based on the same principle, I demand a RCI be set up to investigate allegations by the DoJ (US Department of Justice) concerning the 1MDB scandal.”
Dr Wan Azizah did not discount the likelihood that Cabinet had approved the formation of the RCI to divert attention from the 1MDB lawsuit by the DoJ, which has named people closely associated with Umno president and Prime Minister Najib Razak.
She said an RCI investigation into the 1MDB scandal will prove the newly-announced inquiry on BNM was not a diversion.
“We should not wait 23 years in order to unravel the allegations of wrongdoings in 1MDB,” she said.
“This is an opportunity for responsible institutions to restore the reputation of the country which has been tarnished, and also to revive public confidence in the institutions that were set-up to defend the rule of law and ensure integrity in the government,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said Cabinet had agreed to form the RCI to investigate the central bank’s alleged US$10 billion in forex market losses incurred during Dr Mahathir’s reign.
Dr Mahathir ruled Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, making him the country’s longest-serving prime minister. He is currently an opposition figurehead and leading a campaign to unseat Najib, who was his second hand-picked successor.
Dr Mahathir, who is apparently at the center of the RCI, is currently one of Najib’s staunchest critics.
The formation of the RCI – which comes following the recommendation of a special task force – has been criticised as a diversionary tactic to steer public attention away from the ongoing 1MDB financial scandal. Najib, who established the state fund in 2009, is at the centre of the multi-billion dollar controversy.
The setting up of the RCI also comes as the nation gears up for the next general election, with rumours that Najib will likely call for snap polls in the later half of the year. His current term will expire mid-2018.
The announcement of the RCI’s formation also comes a week after the US DoJ launched a third civil suit to recover about US$540 million in assets that authorities say were stolen by financiers associated with 1MDB, a sovereign wealth fund established by Najib.
US investigators traced nearly US$700 million to bank accounts that were allegedly siphoned from 1MDB into Najib’s personal account. The leader, however, has denied taking money from 1MDB or any other entity for personal gain.
Apart from the DoJ, investigators from at least six other countries, including Singapore, Switzerland, and Australia were looking into the 1MDB case. However, the scandal is not being investigated domestically.