Tycoon also received 1MDB funds, WSJ alleges

Tycoon also received 1MDB funds, WSJ alleges
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A businessman who helped Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was alleged to have received US$529 million (S$715 million) in his Singapore bank account, according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report yesterday that cited documents from an ongoing investigation into the troubled state investor.

Mr Low Taek Jho - better known as Jho Low - will also be summoned by Parliament's influential bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is probing the Finance Ministry-owned company over its RM42 billion (S$15 billion) debt racked up in its first five years of operations.

The WSJ said the deposits were revealed by Singapore police to Bank Negara Malaysia in March. This came about after the Malaysian central bank asked Singapore for help in its probe into 1MDB, whose chief adviser is Datuk Seri Najib.

The Prime Minister was himself accused by the same publication last week of receiving 1MDB-linked funds worth US$700 million in his private accounts in Malaysia.

WSJ said Mr Low received the money in his account at the Singapore branch of Swiss bank BSI, incidentally where 1MDB had stored US$1.1 billion from 2011 to 2013 before closing its account last year.

The money was allegedly deposited by Good Star, a company said to be controlled by Mr Low and which has been accused of being a beneficiary of 1MDB's early business deals. However, the report did not clarify how the deposits might relate to the debt-ridden state firm.

"If proceeds of crime have been transferred to Singapore, we would like to consider whether an offence has been committed in Singapore," Singapore police's Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office head Chua Jia Leng wrote to Bank Negara in March, according to the WSJ.

Malaysia's central bank told The Straits Times: "We decline to comment as the case is under investigation." Mr Low's representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

PAC chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed told reporters yesterday that it would ask Mr Low to testify within two months, to verify some issues in his capacity as special adviser to the Terengganu Investment Authority, which morphed into 1MDB not long after Mr Najib became Prime Minister in 2009.

PAC committee member Tony Pua complained that the Finance Ministry had failed to submit any documents to the PAC despite requests since April.

Mr Najib, who is also Finance Minister, has repeatedly denied using 1MDB funds for "personal gain", but has yet to confirm or deny if he received the US$700 million as alleged by WSJ.

Swirling allegations of abuse of public funds surrounding the firm has been a lightning rod for calls by critics, including influential former premier Mahathir Mohamad, for Mr Najib to resign.

Widely respected former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam yesterday joined growing calls for Mr Najib to take leave of absence so that a high-level task force probing the allegations has "space psychologically, politically and legally for them to find the truth".

Tun Musa, who was deputy premier from 1981 to 1986, told The Malaysian Insider news website that the ruling Umno party was in denial over its leadership problem. He said Mr Najib is not safe despite declarations of support from the Cabinet and Umno's rank and file, as "those who pledge their support will be first to scoot off when their leader is in trouble".

Amid these allegations, Mr Najib has adopted a business-as-usual approach in the last few days by attending breaking of fast functions at mosques. He did not address the fresh allegations against Mr Low yesterday.


This article was first published on July 11, 2015.
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