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Swiss AG ready for talks as 1MDB probe reopens

Free Malaysia Today logo Free Malaysia Today 15/5/2018 Bloomberg
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Swiss AG Michael Lauber has been publicly critical of the lack of cooperation his team of prosecutors got from the Najib government. (Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Four days after the government said it will reopen a graft probe into state fund 1MDB, Swiss prosecutors said they wanted to start talks with Malaysian investigators as soon as possible to better coordinate various criminal probes into the sprawling case.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland “is very much interested in renewing dialogue with the competent authorities in Malaysia” and “favours an exchange between partnering authorities at their earliest convenience,” it said in an email.

Swiss AG Michael Lauber is investigating how billions of dollars were allegedly diverted from the company, some of it funneled through Swiss-based banks.

Lauber has been publicly critical of the lack of cooperation his team of prosecutors got from the government of former prime minister Najib Razak, who himself has been accused of pocketing some of the diverted money.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia’s AG at the time, while 1MDB has consistently denied any misconduct.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Saturday there was enough evidence to reopen a probe into the multi-billion dollar scandal, and said he ordered travel restrictions on Najib, who was planning to leave the country for a break.

Yesterday, the auditor-general declassified an audit report on 1MDB that was protected since 2016 by the Official Secrets Act.

The declassified report details known 1MDB transactions and highlights possible anomalies, while cautioning that the audit team had limited access, which had a significant impact on their findings.

1MDB didn’t submit management accounts for the year ended March 2015 and bank statements from foreign financial institutions. The audit team couldn’t access computers, notebooks and servers at 1MDB for the purpose of crosschecking and analysing its findings.

The report found, among others things, that 1MDB used RM288 million of government funds to pay interest on its debt, which isn’t in line with the fund’s original purpose.

1MDB raised RM3.98 billion from domestic debt and sukuk issuance, of which only RM246 million was invested in two property projects, while RM2.16 billion was advanced to the company.

1MDB said in March that all its funds are fully accounted for.

1MDB officers took investment actions against or without full knowledge of the board of directors on several occasions, while giving inaccurate or conflicting information to stakeholders, according to the report, which doesn’t name any of the officers.

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