Investigation extends into Umno as Malaysia anti-graft agency follows the money trail of billions

Investigation extends into Umno as Malaysia anti-graft agency follows the money trail of billions
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

PUTRAJAYA - The probe into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) has extended into Umno as investigators go on the money trail of billions that have gone unaccounted from the fund.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) froze the bank accounts of the Umno headquarters and Selangor Umno.

Key party officials are in the dark as to why the accounts were frozen.

Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi gave assurance that he was trying to prove that the party's money was legitimate and not involved in any money laundering activities.

"Umno will give our full co-operation to the MACC in the wake of the commission freezing the bank accounts of its headquarters and other accounts," said Dr Ahmad Zahid in a statement yesterday.

Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is assuming the duties of Umno president, said that he will not tolerate any attempt to intimidate and discriminate against Umno.

Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the party's legal team would find out from the authorities as to why the accounts had been frozen.

MACC sources said these were done in relation to the investigations into 1MDB, and the decision to do so was taken "recently".

"We can confirm that the accounts have been frozen but we are not at liberty to discuss the matter," said a source in MACC.

It is not certain if the accounts of other state Umno would suffer the same fate.

"We can't comment on that also," said the source.

Former party president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is subject to investigations following the 1MDB scandal where the fund took on borrowings of close to RM42bil within five years from 2009.

According to investigations in the US, Singapore and Switzerland, a sizeable sum was traced to individuals from Malaysia and the Middle East.

Among them is Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, who is linked to Najib.

Najib himself is facing allegations of some US$681mil (RM2.6bil) going into his account in 2013 before the 13th General Election.

Apart from that, MACC is also investigating some RM42mil going into the former prime minister's account from SRC International Ltd, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

Tengku Adnan said the MACC froze the accounts of the party around noon yesterday and he immediately informed Dr Ahmad Zahid.

"I was the one who told (Dr Ahmad) Zahid that our accounts cannot be accessed and that it has been frozen. Of course, we were shocked by this," he told The Star.

Tengku Adnan did not specify the amount of money kept in the party's accounts.

According to an Umno official, political parties kept millions in fixed deposits as stable source of income. In the case of Umno, sources say it could easily be in the region of RM350mil or more.

"The party would need at least RM25mil to run the organisation every year. The income has to come from some steady sources of investments, and fixed deposits is one of the channels," said the official who held a high position under Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration.

Admitting that the move by the anti-graft authorities would make it financially tough for Umno administratively and for it to conduct activities, Tengku Adnan believed the matter could be resolved.

"We accept their authority to make such a move, but we also want to talk to the MACC to find out why out accounts were frozen," he said.

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