Ex-Malaysian PM Najib questioned in graft probe

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Kuala Lumpur, May 22 (IANS) Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was questioned by anti-graft officials on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the state investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund corruption scandal.

Najib was called in to explain how a $10.6 million deposit was made to his personal bank account from SRC International, a subsidiary of 1MDB, which he had set up in 2009 after taking office, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Mohd Shukri Abdull.

MACC chief Shukri told reporters that at the moment they only asked Najib to record a statement, not to arrest him, but charges could be filed “very soon”, Xinhua news agency reported.

He said the anti-corruption agency received new information related to Najib, but declined to elaborate.

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The investigation into SRC International is a part of large-scale efforts by newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to correct the alleged wrong doings committed by Najib.

After taking over as the country’s Prime Minister, Mahathir reopened the probe into the 1MDB scandal, the fund from which Najib is accused of siphoning off billions of dollars. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Mahathir also set up a task-force, comprised of personnel from the MACC, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Royal Malaysian Police and Malaysian Central Bank.

The Malaysian police last week seized a trove of cash, jewellery and designer handbags from several premises linked to Najib, including his private residence and luxury condominiums, as part of the corruption probe.

But Shukri did not elaborate on the relevance between the 1MDB investigation and the search, saying it should be answered by the police.

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He did not specify how long the investigation will last. Shukri, who announced his retirement as deputy commissioner of the anti-graft agency in 2015 and returned as chief commissioner after the May 9 elections, said that he was threatened that he would lose his position if he took part in the investigation.

A news report in 2015 claimed that around $681 million had been diverted to Najib’s private accounts from 1MDB. However, Najib claimed the money was a donation from a Saudi Arabian prince.

The alleged embezzlement and laundering of funds diverted from 1MDB were being investigated in half a dozen countries, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.

The US Department of Justice estimated that the amount diverted from 1MDB was $4.5 billion, of which some $1 billion may have been laundered in the US through the purchase of real estate, yachts, jewellery and works of art.

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–IANS

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