Minister: US civil suit over 1MDB assets a 'private matter', Putrajaya not defendant

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said says the US Department of Justice's civil lawsuit is a ‘private’ matter which she believes does not require the Malaysian government to step in. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said says the US Department of Justice's civil lawsuit is a ‘private’ matter which she believes does not require the Malaysian government to step in. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 ― The federal government of Malaysia is not named as a defendant in the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) civil lawsuit over state-owned investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) assets, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said today.

Azalina also said the lawsuit is a “private” matter which she believed did not require the Malaysian government to step in.

“My immediate response is I don't know because I believe this matter, you have to ask the Attorney-General. I think it's under the purview of the AG,” she told reporters when asked if the federal government would send legal representatives to represent the two Malaysians named in the suit: Low Taek Jho and Riza Aziz.

Azalina, who highlighted her previous profession as a lawyer, said she had looked into the lawsuit which she said was merely between the US government and the four parties named in the suit.

“I looked into it, I went online and I don't see any government of Malaysia there, I don't see as a party, so I don't think so that it is relevant for the government to be involved.

“I think this is a civil matter and this is a private matter between the government of United States and the parties concerned,” she said.

She also pointed out that state-owned agencies could have their own lawyers to defend themselves.

“If Felda is being sued, Tabung Haji is being sued or PNB, all these state owned agencies or even at state level, Penang state agency, Selangor state agency, Kelantan state agency, I think the state agency would have their purview for their own lawyers.

“It doesn't really relate to the government directly, I think the government is only directly related if the government is the defendant, but the government is not the defendant,” she said.

The US DOJ recently filed a civil lawsuit seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than US$1 billion in assets linked to what it described as an “international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated” from 1MDB, the largest case ever brought by the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has said it is cooperating with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on 1MDB-related investigations, which are limited to the possibility of money laundering by a businessman said to have misled the fund.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar recently said local police only deal with criminal matters and will only take action if the US civil lawsuit develops into a criminal case.

Khalid said police officials investigating the sovereign investment fund have been advised to focus on recommendations by Parliament’s bipartisan Public Accounts Committee and the Cabinet, The Star Online had reported.

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