PUTRAJAYA, Jan 8 — The government will examine China-linked projects more closely for elements of corruption, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said today following a report alleging that these involved inflated sums meant to help settle 1MDB debt.
Responding to questions about a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report alleging that the Najib administration worked with Beijing on Belt-Road Initiative projects such as the East Coast Rail Link to divert funds to 1MDB, Lim said he had not been aware of these before today.
“We knew that the price is inflated, but whether there was such a deal, I have to check. I would be interested to have a copy of those minutes by WSJ,” said Lim.
The finance minister also reiterated that two Sabah pipeline projects previously awarded to Chinese firms had been almost fully paid out even though no physical work had been done. These have already been terminated.
In the WSJ report, it was alleged that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration had colluded with China on such projects to inflate their values in order to divert some of the funds towards 1MDB that was struggling to pay its debt at the time.
The report cited minutes of meetings between members of the Najib administration and China’s leaders as well as from secret talks purportedly between the two countries at the time.
“I have to refer back to any details explicitly said. If it was said in black and white, then it is something we will pursue,” Lim told a press conference at the Finance Ministry here, today.
The WSJ report asserted that Najib had turned to China at the height of his political crisis here due to the 1MDB scandal and that Beijing saw this as an opportunity to further its own interests in the region.
The Najib administration undertook massive infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link that were almost entirely funded, managed and constructed by Chinese firms.
The report is the latest expose by the US news outlet that first disclosed the US$681 million deposit into Najib’s personal accounts, which has since led to money laundering charges against him after Malaysian investigators concluded that the funds originated from 1MDB.