KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed he was not aware that former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz’s family members allegedly received 1MDB funds when he appointed her to a government advisory panel.
The former prime minister told Malaysiakini he had placed her on the Council of Eminent Persons based on her experience in banking and finance.
“I didn’t know, I didn’t know. But Zeti performed very well as a banker. As a central banker, she is well-known worldwide. I appointed a very well-known person.
“I did not know anything about her sons and all that. That is her matter,” he was quoted as saying.
Instead, he said he kept in contact with Zeti when Datuk Seri Najib Razak was still prime minister as she was aware of the irregularities in Najib’s bank accounts.
Dr Mahathir claimed Zeti had wanted to act against Najib at the time but the plan — purportedly involving herself, the attorney general, inspector-general of police, and the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission — fell through.
“Actually, even during Najib’s time I had been talking to Zeti. She was the one who told me that Najib had a lot of money in the bank and that she wanted to take action. She tried.
“But after that, not sure what Najib did, she did not dare. Even the group of four, after the police chief told Najib about their group of four, the attorney-general was sacked. Najib destroyed the group of four,” Dr Mahathir was further quoted as saying.
After winning the 2018 general election, Dr Mahathir formed the quasi-official CEP and populated it with former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, Zeti, economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, billionaire Robert Kuok, and former Petronas chief Tan Sri Hassan Marican.
The CEP advised Dr Mahathir’s Cabinet on the country’s economy and financial situation in the initial year of his administration.
Last month, business daily The Edge reported that Singaporean police had informed BNM of suspicious transactions involving a company owned by Zeti’s husband, Datuk Dr Tawfiq Ayman, and their son.
According to the report, the republic’s Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) shared this information with BNM in 2015 and 2016, when Zeti was still its governor.
The information shared with BNM at the time involved suspicious funds going into a UBS bank account under the name of Iron Rhapsody Ltd, which The Edge reported to be owned by one Dr Tawfiq Ayman (who shares the same name as Zeti’s husband) and another man believed to be her son and was not named in the report.
Citing documents shared by CAD, Iron Rhapsody received a total of RM66 million from five transactions from companies and bank accounts held by Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, the central figure in the 1MDB financial scandal.
The report added that the source of four transactions involved funds from Low and his supporters from the RM5 billion 1MDB/TIA (Terengganu Investment Authority) bonds that were arranged by Ambank in 2009.
The Edge said BNM responded to its queries but said it could not comment on them as it is “bound by the international protocol for sharing financial intelligence”.
Since then, Bukit Aman’s Commercial Crimes Department chief, Datuk Zainuddin Yaacob has confirmed that Tawfiq was “still being investigated” under Section (4)(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001.