Debt-laden 1MDB refuses participation at Malaysia's biggest investment forum

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has refused to participate in Malaysia's biggest investment forum, CIMB chairman Nazir Razak said, adding that the decision was disappointing given the negative sentiment over the Malaysian economy that has centred around the debt-laden state fund.

Datuk Seri Nazir, who is also Prime Minister Najib Razak's brother, told reporters on the sidelines of Invest Malaysia on Thursday that CIMB - the second largest bank in Malaysia which is organising this year's forum - heard many concerns about 1MDB at a recent roadshow regarding Islamic bonds.

"They declined to participate and I am disappointed because I think they would have been an important element of Invest Malaysia given the backchatter on the topic," he said.

Although he said 1MDB's troubles were "not a systemic issue", he added that "I don't think it's helpful that they're not here."

"Sometimes you cannot just spin. You gotta deal with the substance of the questions. It is one isolated case, (but) unfortunately it is a bit of an eyesore. The faster we solve it, the better," he said.

Mr Nazir's comments came after his brother addressed questions on 1MDB in an hour-long televised interview two weeks ago.

But critics, such as former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, had scoffed at his responses, saying he gave no answers to pressing questions surrounding the company which has struggled to repay billions of ringgit in debt this year.

It has racked up over RM42 billion (S$15.68 billion) in debt in its first five years, more than a third of which are guaranteed by taxpayers.

Mr Najib last month ordered an audit of the firm, where he is chairman of the advisory board, amid allegations that a businessman close to him had siphoned over RM700 million of public funds.

shannont@sph.com.sg