Malaysian police hunt for whistle-blowers in 1MDB case

Search on for source of leaked documents to 'foreign nationals' over 1MDB allegations

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said all members of the Special Task Force currently probing 1MDB would be under investigation.
Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said all members of the Special Task Force currently probing 1MDB would be under investigation. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Malaysian police looking for answers to allegations that millions of dollars are missing from state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) are searching for whistle-blowers who might have leaked key documents to "foreign nationals".

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement yesterday that the force was acting under instruction from the public prosecutor, and has not ruled out "a conspiracy to subvert Malaysia's democratic process and topple the Prime Minister". "These criminal acts are very serious and raise national security implications," Inspector-General of Police Khalid said, adding that "all members of the Special Task Force" who are currently probing 1MDB would be under investigation.

The turn of events came about after a multi-agency government task force was formed last week to probe allegations of abuse of public funds involving 1MDB, a state investment fund whose board of advisers is chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

This followed a report in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that alleged US$700 million (S$940 million) flowed into the bank accounts of Datuk Seri Najib in Malaysia, with the funds believed to be linked to 1MDB. Mr Najib had accused his harshest critic and predecessor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, of colluding with international press in a "political sabotage" on July 3, the same day that the WSJ report was published.

The financial newspaper had cited documents from a Malaysian government investigation into the debt-laden Finance Ministry firm, and later uploaded redacted versions of these papers that did not conclusively show that Mr Najib was the beneficiary of several deposits over the past two years.

The task force is led by Attorney-General Gani Patail, and includes the police, anti-graft agency and central bank. The central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia, on Sunday denied being the source of the leaks, which were largely banking documents.

The statement by Tan Sri Khalid comes a day after Utusan Malaysia, owned by Mr Najib's ruling Umno, accused opposition leaders of seeking help from foreign powers to topple the government via a coup.

Besides the Prime Minister's own accusation against the long-serving former premier, Dr Mahathir, at least two other Umno supreme council members have claimed an international conspiracy is ongoing to undermine the Najib administration.

Dr Mahathir, who has for months led calls for Mr Najib's resignation, has denied any conspiracy and instead called on the Prime Minister to reveal details of his bank accounts to prove his innocence. Mr Najib has denied using state funds for "personal gain", but has come under heavy criticism for not clarifying if accounts or transactions mentioned by the WSJ were genuine.

While the Prime Minister continued to be silent over this key issue, his brother Nazir Razak - chief of Malaysia's second-biggest bank, CIMB - praised Bank Negara Malaysia for its "timely, firm and unambiguous" denial that it had leaked confidential information on the investigations into 1MDB.

Datuk Seri Nazir has been critical of 1MDB - whose RM42 billion (S$15 billion) in debt racked up in the first five years of operation has become a lightning rod for calls for Mr Najib to step down - in recent months. Mr Nazir has attacked the state firm for lacking accountability and transparency.

Mr Najib has repeatedly asked the public to allow investigations to proceed and insisted he would not betray the trust of Malaysians.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline 'Malaysian police hunt for whistle-blowers'. Subscribe