Malaysia Will Not Shield 1MDB Wrong-Doers

Malaysia, 1MDB, Najib Razak, Jahori Addul Ghani

Malaysian PM Najib is pictured at an official event several days after U.S. officials moved to seize 1MDB assets (Picture: Shutterstock)

Malaysia's government said it won't shield its citizens from punishment for alleged corruption at state fund 1MDB. Those named in the U.S. investigation include family and close associates of the prime minister – as well as reportedly the PM himself.

1MDB is the subject of investigations in several countries including the U.S. and Singapore. Officials allege that billions in state funds were siphoned off to buy everything from a $33.5 million Central Park duplex, expensive impressionist art since seized in a Geneva freeport as well as to bankroll the film «The Wolf of Wall Street».

The scandal has roiled Singapore, where several banks including UBS were found to have dealings with the allegedly corrupt fund. In an unprecedented move, Banca della Svizzera Italiana, or BSI, was shut down in the city state because of particularly egregious dealings with 1MDB.

No Malaysian Furor

In Malaysia itself, the matter has caused much less of a furor than it has internationally.

On Tuesday, a high-ranking finance official signaled that Malaysians named in U.S. justice documents – which includes Riza Aziz, the stepson of Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Jho Low, a flamboyant jet-setter who helped set up 1MDB – can't count on much help from Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia's second-in-charge after Najib at the finance ministry, Johari Abdul Ghani, pledged that Malaysia won't impede the pursuit of those involved in the 1MDB case – to a point.

No Protection

«As far as the government of Malaysia is concerned, any individuals that basically have committed any offense in any countries outside Malaysia, the Malaysian government will not protect them,” Johari said, according to «The Wall Street Journal». «We want them to face the due legal process. That is the commitment of the government.»

Johari was recently promoted in a cabinet reshuffle to second in command to Najib, who serves as finance minister as well as PM, at the finance ministry. 

«Malaysian Official Number 1»

The newspaper cites a source as saying that Najib, who is not named in the U.S. investigation, is behind the pseudonym «Malaysian Official Number 1» in U.S. judicial documents. According to the «WSJ», descriptions and identifying details in the filings match Najib’s position at 1MDB.

Johari's tough talk is likely to be taken with a grain of salt after it emerged that a domestic investigation into the matter was apparently strangled, with key witnesses not questioned and crucial evidence ignored.

Both Riza and Low were thanked by Leonardo DiCaprio in a Golden Globe acceptance speech for their role in helping produce and finance the film «The Wolf of Wall Street» (see below).

U.S. Asset Swoop

Johari's comments come roughly one week after the U.S. moved to seize more than $1 billion allegedly pilfered from 1MDB.

Riza wasn't available for comment to the «WSJ», although his production company said it is cooperating and that Riza «did nothing wrong». Low, who has denied wrong-doing in the past, declined to comment. 

Through a press secretary, Najib said the Malaysian government would fully cooperate with any lawful investigation. 1MDB, which denies wrongdoing, said it would also cooperate with any lawful investigation. 

 

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