KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian police investigating a scandal at state fund 1MDB are questioning more than 50 individuals who received payments from a sum of US$972 million (S$1.3 billion) that entered the personal bank account of former prime minister Najib Razak, an official has said.
A total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level officials of the fund - 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) - and their associates, the US Justice Department (DOJ) has said, Reuters reported.
The fund, founded by Najib, is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.
Police are recording statements from those who received funds from Najib's personal account, among them people with political affiliations and foreigners, said deputy police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim at a news conference yesterday.
Asked if any of the 50 in the investigation would be charged, he replied: "There is a possibility."
Reuters could not immediately reach a spokesman for Najib for comment.
A total of 132 money laundering transactions have been identified and investigations are continuing, the police said in a statement later. They added that statements have been taken from 64 people, including Najib and his daughter Nooryana Najwa Najib, with more to come as they track down those involved, or persons of interest, in the scandal, Reuters reported.
Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor have been barred from leaving Malaysia after his decade in power ended in a shock election defeat in May, and the new Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, relaunched an investigation into the troubled fund.
The scandal erupted in 2015 after media reports that about US$681 million - then about RM2.6 billion - had been deposited in Najib's bank account.
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, maintaining the funds were donations from a Saudi royal and the bulk of it had been handed back.
"In conclusion, I did not keep the RM2.6 billion. Even if someone wanted to steal, it doesn't make sense to stash it in an account under their name, and we know it is not from 1MDB as those were funds sourced from loans," he wrote on Facebook yesterday, Malay Mail reported.
Mr Noor Rashid said US$972 million went into Najib's account, however, after moving through accounts linked to several firms. He named some, including Good Star Limited, Aabar and Tanore.
Najib yesterday said he received money from the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud's various accounts, one of which was from Tanore, the Malay Mail reported. He has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges in connection with a former 1MDB unit.