KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — The government has a hard time recovering money taken from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) because the man who created the sovereign fund has been evasive about where the cash went, the prime minister said.
Tun Dr Mahahir Mohamad who has blamed Malaysia’s strapped financial straits on his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said the latter’s “ridiculous explanations” hampered investigations that would lead to recovery of the missing billions of ringgit allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
“We are trying to get him to explain why the money is totally lost. If you invest in the company, we can go to the company and say if we want to withdraw things like that.
“But in this case, he is claiming that he did not take the money... that it was a gift, all kinds of ridiculous explanations are being given by him but he is not telling us where he has kept the money.
“We are trying to resolve the financial problem. What he did was to borrow huge sums of money. If you borrow money and invest it, we can trace the money and we can get back the money. But the money has disappeared, obviously he has hidden the money somewhere or given to some people,” Dr Mahathir told Turkish broadcaster TRT World in an interview aired on Monday.
The Pakatan Harapan chairman said the previous Barisan Nasional government, under Najib, borrowed a huge sum of money, which had disappeared, putting Malaysia in massive debt that it is obliged but struggling to repay.
The 94-year-old said Najib’s actions tarnished Malaysia’s reputation internationally.
“During his time, of course Malaysia’s reputation was much damaged. We used to be called one of the Asian tigers, but after what Najib has done, we have been labelled a kleptocracy
“We were not a democracy anymore under Najib’s rule. So we lost a good image simply because of the depredations by the prime minister,” Dr Mahathir said.
Last June, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission announced it had started a civil lawsuit to recover RM270 million allegedly from 1MDB funds and which were said to have flowed from Najib’s AmBank account.
The funds were believed to be transferred to 41 recipients consisting of NGOs, foundations, and companies.
Najib, now 66, was prime minister of Malaysia from April 2009 to May 2018, and finance minister from September 2008 to May 2018.
The 1MDB investment firm is under the Finance Ministry’s Minister of Finance Incorporated.