High-powered team to probe complaints linked to Malaysia's 1MDB

A high-powered task force has been formed to investigate complaints related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), adding more pressure on the debt-laden state investment agency.

This comes as Auditor-General Ambrin Buang, tasked with verifying the Finance Ministry-owned company's accounts, said he would make an announcement this week on the scope of his review after being told not to drag his feet.

Whistle-blower site Sarawak Report's running exposes have prompted opposition politicians, former and current Umno leaders, and anti-graft organisations to demand a thorough investigation into 1MDB, piling pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also the Finance Minister and chairman of the 1MDB advisory board.

The Cabinet responded last Wednesday by ordering a review of the company's accounts, which would then be passed on to Parliament's bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said yesterday the task force set up a few days ago comprises representatives from the police, the Attorney- General's Office and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

"We are investigating those reports lodged," he said.

He confirmed that reports against the Prime Minister would be included in the investigation into 1MDB, which has racked up RM42 billion (S$15.8 billion) of debt in five years - a third of which is guaranteed by taxpayers.

Asked if the police would investigate reports filed against Datuk Seri Najib, the police chief replied: "Yes."

Tan Sri Ambrin told The Straits Times he could not comment yet on his review, but said he would reveal details later this week.

"I will make a statement (and) meet the press this week," he said when asked about the scope of his audit, which was not mentioned in the government's announcement last Wednesday.

According to the Prime Minister's Office, the Cabinet had called in 1MDB's executives and its auditors to brief ministers, who were satisfied that no wrongdoing had taken place.

But Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said last Friday the Auditor-General must not delay a "complete and comprehensive" report and told the PAC to begin investigations immediately.

"I want to stress that any effort to address the 1MDB issue must not involve a bailout of the company with public funds," he said in a statement widely seen as distancing himself from Mr Najib.

PAC chief Nur Jazlan Mohamed, who is from the ruling Umno party, has insisted that investigations must include 1MDB's funding and a questionable transfer of funds in a 2009 joint venture deal with Saudi energy firm PetroSaudi.

"If any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception," Mr Najib had said.

shannont@sph.com.sg