Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday expressed confidence that the government task force probing the finances of state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) will conduct its investigations quickly and in a transparent manner, as the team faces mounting public criticism.
Critics have said that the multi-agency task force may take a long time to conclude its probe into the scandal that has tarnished the name of the prime minister and the country. Part of its work is to look into the bank accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak, following allegations in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report on July 3 that US$700 million (S$945.4 million)flowed into his accounts, with the funds believed to be from 1MDB.
Other critics are worried that the probe might be hampered because the heads of the task force - Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, and Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission chief Abu Kassim Mohamed - are appointees of the Prime Minister.
Mr Najib has not replied to calls for him to take a leave of absence to give freer rein to the probe.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin said yesterday: "I fully support the special task force and I agree that the matter should be resolved quickly to restore the situation which is worrying many parties."
I fully support the special task force and I agree that the matter should be resolved quickly to restore the situation which is worrying many parties
'DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MUHYIDDIN YASSIN
He was quoted as saying by Malaysia's Bernama news agency: "The investigation must be transparent and according to the law without fear or favour."
Mr Najib has denied that he had taken any funds for "personal gain" and his lawyers have sent a legal letter to WSJ.
Meanwhile, The Star newspaper reported yesterday that there were tensions in 2009 among 1MDB board members in the early months, which raised questions about who was in charge of the state investment firm.
Two board members quit after they found out that US$700 million was moved out of the 1MDB account and transferred into the account of a company not linked to a deal it had set up with PetroSaudi International (PSI).
Some board members were also unhappy with 1MDB's seeming haste to sign a deal with PSI to set up a joint venture company called 1MDB PetroSaudi Ltd on Sept 28, 2009, reported The Star, quoting investigators.
The board was informed on Sept 18, 2009, of a deal with PSI and that valuations would first be carried out on its oil and gas assets in Turkmenistan and Argentina. But an agreement with a PSI subsidiary was signed just 10 days later.
1MDB then paid the subsidiary, PetroSaudi Holdings (Cayman), US$1 billion in cash for a 40 per cent stake in the joint venture.
The board was told only later that US$700 million was extended to PetroSaudi Holdings three days before the joint venture was formalised on Sept 25, The Star said. This money was transferred into the account of an unnamed company.
These moves led then 1MDB chairman Mohd Bakke Salleh and board member Azlan Mohd Zainol to quit in protest, said The Star.
In a separate report, it said that investigators have found that almost RM13 billion (S$4.6 billion) of 1MDB's assets, which have been classified as "available for sale", cannot be easily liquidated.
1MDB responded yesterday by accusing the paper of "sloppy reporting", saying: "1MDB is concerned that a regulated and licensed newspaper such as The Star is presenting such unsubstantiated opinions as fact in its reporting. Further, it is a well-known fact that a number of lawful authorities are conducting investigations on 1MDB and no final determination has yet to be made."