Malaysia's central bank gives land purchase deal details to anti-graft agency

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (centre) arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on May 24, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia's central bank said on Thursday (May 24) that it has handed details of a transaction to purchase land from the previous government to the anti-graft agency, after reports that funds from the deal may have been used to pay dues of the troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The government of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak - who was defeated at the country's election earlier this month - had used funds from the deal to pay for some of the liabilities of the beleaguered state fund, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

"The transaction complied with all the governance requirements and relevant laws that govern the Bank," Bank Negara Malaysia said in a statement, adding that information on the transaction had been passed to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Funds from the land sale made by the government to the central bank for about 2 billion ringgit (S$673.4 million) were used to pay for 1MDB's obligation to Abu Dhabi state fund IPIC, the sources said.

One source said the ministry had made use of government assets to make several payments to bail out 1MDB.

The sources did not want to be identified as they were not authorised to talk to the media.

The payment from the central bank was first reported on Wednesday (May 23) by the Wall Street Journal.

The news comes as Malaysia's new finance minister said this week that Najib's government had deceived the public and Parliament over the country's financial situation and 1MDB.

The previous government has been bailing out debt-burdened 1MDB since April 2017, paying a total of RM6.98 billion so far, Lim Guan Eng said, adding that 1MDB directors confirmed the fund was insolvent.

1MDB had agreed to pay US$1.2 billion to IPIC as part of a settlement agreement reached in April 2017 after 1MDB defaulted on its bonds.

The total settlement amount was to be paid to IPIC over two instalments - one by the end of July, which 1MDB paid in August - and another by December.

1MDB said on Dec 27 that it had paid the second tranche and that the entire settlement amount was paid through funds raised by an "on-going rationalisation" programme.

However, the sources said the second instalment to IPIC was paid by the ministry of finance through funds from the land sale agreement with the central bank.

Bank Negara Malaysia said on Jan 4 that it had agreed to purchase a plot of land from the Malaysian government for about 2 billion ringgit after several months of discussions.

1MDB is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore. In civil lawsuits, the US Justice Department has alleged that about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB.

The Malaysian fund has denied any wrongdoing and Najib, who founded 1MDB, has denied all allegations of corruption against him.

He was defeated in a general election earlier this month and was succeeded by Mahathir Mohamad, who immediately opened investigations into the state fund and barred Najib from leaving the country.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.