Task force raids 1MDB office over claims in WSJ report

Left: Mr Najib Razak (centre), flanked by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at an event in Putrajaya yesterday. Below: Officers seizing materials from the 1MDB office in Kuala Lumpur.
Above: Mr Najib Razak (centre), flanked by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at an event in Putrajaya yesterday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Left: Mr Najib Razak (centre), flanked by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (left) and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at an event in Putrajaya yesterday. Below: Officers seizing materials from the 1MDB office in Kuala Lumpur.
Above: Officers seizing materials from the 1MDB office in Kuala Lumpur.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cabinet members back Najib, whose lawyers have sought clarification from the US financial daily

Officers raided the office of 1Malaysia Development Berhad here yesterday as Cabinet members said they supported Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been hit by claims that nearly US$700 million (S$950 million) was transferred from 1MDB into his personal accounts.

The officers from a multi-agency special task force investigating the claims made in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report were seen leaving several hours later with boxes labelled "1MDB". The state investment agency confirmed that "a number of officials from the task force... visited our offices" and were provided with "a number of documents and materials" to aid in their probe.

After their weekly meeting, Cabinet ministers closed ranks, telling reporters they stood behind their Prime Minister.

"The Cabinet was very united in the view that we have to allow for due process to take its course. Right now, the task force is investigating the matter," Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Yesterday's raid by the special task force, comprising the Attorney-General's Office, police, Bank Negara and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, came after it froze six bank accounts believed to be linked to last Friday's WSJ report.

Civil society and opposition leaders have urged Datuk Seri Najib to go on leave pending the probe.

Three members of Umno's 60-strong supreme council yesterday said there was no need for Mr Najib, who is Umno president, to do so as the claims were unsubstantiated and have yet to be proven.

One of them, Deputy Agriculture Minister Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, was quoted as saying that supreme council members' support for Mr Najib was "intact".

Mr Khairy told reporters the Prime Minister himself raised the WSJ's claims at the Cabinet meeting and explained that he was still considering taking legal action.

Mr Najib's lawyers sent a letter of clarification to WSJ yesterday morning "to seek confirmation as to whether it is your position, as taken in the articles (on July 3 and 6), that our client misappropriated nearly US$700 million from 1MDB?"

WSJ publisher Dow Jones told The Star yesterday that it stood by the story.

Works Minister Fadillah Yusof told The Straits Times that while the Cabinet was firmly behind the Prime Minister, Mr Najib's explanation was "not in-depth".

Mr Najib also said in a statement that the task force must "take into account the veracity of the documents published to support its actions".

To back up its claims, the WSJ on Tuesday uploaded several documents that it said it had sourced from a government investigation, including bank remittance slips that appeared to detail deposits into accounts belonging to Mr Najib. But his name was not on any of the slips, which named the beneficiary as AmPrivate Banking.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, whose department is leading the task force, expressed "strong concern" over the "leakage of documents pertaining to an ongoing criminal investigation and called for a full investigation".

He said the leak could not be considered whistleblowing as the documents were part of an ongoing investigation.

This view was echoed by police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, who said earlier that the police would investigate the WSJ under financial laws, as the leak could be deemed "economic sabotage".

Mr Najib has rubbished the idea that he would use a local bank account - AmBank is Malaysia's fifth largest bank - to steal the money and said he would never betray Malaysians by using state funds for "personal gain".

He has accused former premier Mahathir Mohamad of masterminding the allegations in a "political sabotage". Tun Dr Mahathir has for months led calls for Mr Najib to step down over 1MDB, which has racked up RM42 billion (S$14.9 billion) in debt in just a few years.

For more, go to http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysians-turn-to-humour-and-c...

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'Task force raids 1MDB office over claims in WSJ report'. Print Edition | Subscribe