Malaysia sets up task force to probe 1MDB scandal

Malaysian authorities set up a task force on Monday to investigate the theft of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, local media said.

Abdul Gani Patail, the former attorney general, will lead the task force. Abdul was removed from his post in 2015 while leading investigations into 1MDB scandal.

The task force will find and seize assets and take legal action against those suspected of breaking the law in relation to the fund, said the prime minister’s office.

The task force will consist of representatives of the anti-graft agency, the police and the attorney general’s office. It will reach out to law enforcement agencies in other countries, including the US, Switzerland, Singapore and Canada, where Najib Razak (pictured), former prime minister, is being investigated.

People voted a new coalition government to power at the May 9 elections hoping that it would make sincere efforts to end corruption and, as party of it, conduct a fair probe and expose those who embezzled the state fund.

The new government led by Mahathir Mohamad acted quickly by barring Najib and his wife from leaving the country.

Last week, officials seized cash, jewellery and designer handbags worth millions from Najib’s homes. Officials hinted at more raids targeting his family and others in the days ahead.

The state fund was set up in 2009 to promote the development of Malaysian economy. It is alleged that Najib and his cronies looted the fund.

Newspapers had highlighted one case in which an amount of $681 million was allegedly transferred from the state fund to the personal bank account of Najib. The cash transfer was detected in 2015.

Najib has repeatedly denied the allegations. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir came to his rescue in April 2016 by stating that the money was sent to Najib as a “genuine donation”. Al-Jubeir did not explain who donated the money or why.

In an interview with New York Times in February the same year, al-Jubeir said the funds “went to an investment in Malaysia” but he did not confirm they were a gift.

Malaysia said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family to support Najib in his fight against terrorism. Its attorney general then cleared him of corruption charges.

Mahathir came out of retirement to take on scandal-tainted Najib. He promised voters to reopen cases linked to 1MDB.