KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia has discovered "many mini 1MDBs" in its campaign to root out corruption in the country, according to a top adviser to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, signalling the wrongdoing unearthed at the debt-ridden fund may be more widespread.
Tun Daim Zainuddin, 80, who was appointed by Tun Dr Mahathir to head a Council of Eminent Persons to advise the new government on how to meet its campaign pledges, said he has found indications of multiple criminal breaches of trust based on his meetings with dozens of state institutions and government-linked companies.
He will submit his findings to the Premier.
"There are so many mini 1MDBs," he said in a Sunday interview in Kuala Lumpur. "I'm surprised at the loss. I'm still gathering all the total. But it's big. If you add it up, it's big. Very big."
Malaysia has been quick to revive an investigation into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) - the state-owned investment fund at the heart of a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal - but the authorities are finding the finish line moving farther away as signs point to wrongdoing that is more widespread than previously known.
In the month since Dr Mahathir's surprise election victory, the authorities have questioned former premier Najib Razak and his wife, seized millions of dollars in cash, handbags and jewellery, and issued arrest warrants for people linked to the troubled state fund.
Datuk Seri Najib denies any wrongdoing.
Just last week, the government raised new questions over RM9.4 billion (S$3.2 billion) of projects involving a unit of China National Petroleum and Suria Strategic Energy Resources, a company that new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has called an "offshoot" of 1MDB.
Suria Strategic's office was raided by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Ministry of Finance has removed the company's director, while placing all its employees on indefinite leave, Mr Lim said in a statement yesterday.
The ministry will appoint an accounting firm to lead an executive committee that will operate the company and investigate the transactions linked to the energy pipeline projects.
"They don't understand that they are put there in a position of trust," Mr Daim said at his office. "And you have to make sure every single cent you spend is spent properly. There should be no abuse and you must account for every single cent."
Mr Daim has been a long-time confidante of Dr Mahathir.
A UK-trained lawyer, Mr Daim spent much of his early career in real estate and banking.
He was finance minister from 1984 to 1991, then had a second stint from 1999 to 2001 in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.
Mr Daim helped pull Malaysia out of two of its worst recessions by pouring money into roads, schools and other projects, and pushing banks to lower interest rates.
The Council of Eminent Persons, just like Dr Mahathir, is racing against the clock to see the new government fulfil its first 100-day pledges, which include reviving the probe into 1MDB, reviewing large government projects and raising minimum wages.