Malaysia investigated by Swiss authorities for corruption and bribery

Swiss authorities are examining the accounts of a state investment fund

Malaysia’s top prosecutor has said he will co-operate with Swiss authorities, whose investigation into an indebted Malaysian state investment fund indicated that £2.8bn may have been misappropriated from Malaysian state-owned companies. 

Switzerland’s top prosecutor, attorney general Michael Lauber, sought Malaysia’s help after the investigation into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) confirmed that some money was transferred into accounts in Switzerland. The accounts were held by various former Malaysian public officials and former and current public officials from the United Arab Emirates. 

The Swiss office said in a statement late on 29 January that it wanted help with its investigation into possible violations of Swiss laws related to bribery of foreign officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement at the fund. Swiss prosecutors said four cases involving allegations of criminal misconduct from 2009 to 2013 have emerged so far involving several companies. 1MDB, whose advisory board is chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been investigated by Malaysian authorities following accusations of financial mismanagement and graft.

Last week, Malaysia’s attorney general cleared Mr Najib himself of any criminal offences or corruption, declaring that £478m deposited into his personal bank account in early 2013, just before national elections, was a gift from Saudi Arabia’s royal family and that Mr Najib had returned £435m. The Malaysian  anti-corruption commission subsequently said it would seek a review of that decision.

“My office intends to take all possible steps to follow up and collaborate with our Swiss counterparts, and we look forward to receiving the findings of their investigations and materials,” Malaysia’s attorney general, Mohamed Apandi Ali, said in a statement on 30 January. He added that the materials held by Swiss authorities will be reviewed, along with Malaysia’s own investigation, to determine the right course of action. 

However, the statement from the Mr Apandi noted that the investigations into 1MDB were entirely separate from those into donations made to Mr Najib. 

Mr Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying the funds were a political donation and he did not take any money for personal gain. 1MDB also said in a statement that it was willing to co-operate in the Swiss investigation but that it hadn’t been contacted. 

In its statement on 29 January, the Swiss attorney general’s office said: “The monies believed to have been misappropriated would have been earmarked for investment in economic and social development projects in Malaysia.”

Mr Najib has been resisting intense pressure to resign over the financial scandal and 1MDB’s woes. The situation represents his biggest political crisis since he took power in 2009 – the year he formed the 1MDB fund. 1MDB is £7.11bn in debt and has been selling assets to clear its debts. 

Tony Pua, a member of the Malaysian parliament with the opposition Democratic Action Party, called on the Malaysian attorney general to co-operate fully with foreign investigating agencies.

“Such co-operation will not only go a long way towards identifying the culprits but also removing the perception that the Malaysian attorney general was biased in favour of the Prime Minister,” Mr Pua said. (AP; Reuters)

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