KUALA LUMPUR - A former Umno leader who said he was prevented from boarding a flight to New York where he had planned to lodge a complaint against state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), was scheduled to meet agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Monday (Sept 21).
The meeting between former Batu Kawan Umno vice-chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan and the FBI agents was arranged with assistance from the US Embassy in Malaysia, his lawyer Matthias Chang told The New York Times (NYT).
But the plan was derailed after the Immigration Department barred Khairuddin from leaving the country on Friday. He was picked up from his home in Kuala Lumpur and taken to the Dang Wangi district police headquarters
Khairuddin was charged with trying to overthrow the government, his lawyer said.
"This was a blatant abuse of power to prevent this report from being filed in the United States," NYT quoted Chang as saying. "It is so ridiculous to say that our action would undermine democracy," he added.
Khairuddin's arrest came just hours after he said he was being investigated for submitting evidence related to 1MDB to the Swiss Attorney-General. He had handed the evidence to the Swiss authorities on Aug 20 and urged them to investigate the state fund's activities involving Swiss and international banks. The Swiss authorities said last month they had opened criminal proceedings related to 1MDB.
The NYT report said Khairuddin, a relatively junior member of the Umno party who turned against Najib late last year, has travelled to financial capitals in Europe and Asia in an effort to spur investigations into the prime minister's dealings.
Besides Switzerland, Khairuddin has also lodged complaints in Hong Kong regarding banking activity involving 1MDB.
He said in an interview this month that he had planned to submit documents to US law enforcement officials alleging money laundering, according to NYT.
"I strongly believe that the US authorities have all the records on money movements," Khairuddin said, but declined to be more specific.
Set up in 2009 to invest in Malaysia's economy, 1MDB is now struggling to repay more than US$11 billion (S$15.3 billion) worth of debts.
In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Malaysian government investigation found that almost US$700 million was deposited into the Prime Minister's private accounts through entities linked to 1MDB ahead of the general election in 2013. The Malaysian leader has denied any wrongdoing.
Malaysia's anti-corruption body said last month that the money was not from 1MDB and was a political donation from a donor in the Middle East.