Malaysia to act against 1MDB fraudsters

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia will take legal action against individuals named in civil lawsuits filed by United States prosecutors last month if there is proof that they defrauded a state-owned fund, a government minister has said.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Paul Low, whose portfolio covers governance and integrity, said yesterday that criminal prosecution "must be instituted" against all involved if funds were "stolen from us".

He said he was referring to civil lawsuits filed by the US Justice Department, alleging that more than US$3.5 billion (S$4.7 billion) was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

"Those guilty must be punished in accordance with our laws and those of the countries where the money was laundered," said Datuk Low, adding that any money stolen from the Malaysian government must be recovered in full.

"Our enforcement agencies and the attorney-general must cooperate fully with all international agencies to deal with the matter in an appropriate manner in order to allay negative perception and restore the trust and confidence of the people for the government," he said, according to the official text of his keynote speech at the Governance Symposium 2016 yesterday.

The US lawsuits named several individuals, including Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, popularly known as Jho Low. The civil suits also seek to seize US$1 billion in assets believed to have been bought using money stolen from 1MDB, the largest case to date in the US Justice Department's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who founded 1MDB, has weathered persistent calls for him to step down over his handling of the scandal.

Datuk Seri Najib has denied any wrongdoing and has said the US Department of Justice lawsuit does not involve him.

REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia to act against 1MDB fraudsters'. Print Edition | Subscribe