Malaysia 1MDB scandal: Singapore seizes bank accounts

1MDB logo is set against the Petronas Twin Towers Image copyright AP

The authorities in Singapore say they have seized a large number of bank accounts as part of an investigation into possible money-laundering linked to a fund owned by the Malaysian state.

The fund is called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

It was established in 2009 to pay for major new economic and social developments in Malaysia.

Singapore said it would not tolerate being used as a refuge for illicit funds.

In a joint statement by its central bank and the police's anti-fraud agency it said: "In connection with these investigations, we have sought and are continuing to seek information from several financial institutions, are interviewing various individuals, and have seized a large number of bank accounts.

"Singapore is also cooperating closely with relevant authorities, including those in Malaysia, Switzerland and the United States."

Last year, officials in Singapore froze two bank accounts as part of its investigation.

The announcement follows news that around $4bn (£2.8bn), earmarked for investment in economic and social development projects in Malaysia, may have been misappropriated from state-owned companies.

Switzerland's attorney general said on Friday there were "serious indications that funds have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies".

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Some of the money, the office of Michael Lauber said, had been transferred to Swiss accounts held by Malaysian former public officials and current and former public officials from the United Arab Emirates.

"To date, however, the Malaysian companies concerned have made no comment on the losses they are believed to have incurred," the attorney general's statement said (in German).

Mr Lauber called on Malaysian authorities to give full judicial assistance to their Swiss counterparts.

Last year, Swiss authorities opened an investigation into 1MDB after it amassed more than $11bn (£7bn) of debt.

In a statement on Saturday, 1MDB said it "remains committed to fully co-operating with any lawful authority and investigation", but had not yet heard from any foreign legal authorities.

Regulators in the US and Hong Kong are also reported to be investigating 1MDB.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Allegations about 1MDB have hit Prime Minister Najib Razak

The fund's advisory board is chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who launched 1MDB soon after taking office in 2009.

Last July, Malaysia's then-Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail linked a donation of $681m (£478m) made to Mr Najib's account with companies and bodies which had ties to 1MDB.

Mr Patail was replaced, and, after an investigation, his successor last week cleared Mr Najib of corruption saying that the money was a personal donation by the Saudi royal family to the prime minister's private bank account.

"I am satisfied that there is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly," said Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Most of the money was later returned, he said.

Malaysia's anti-corruption commission said it would seek a review of the attorney-general's decision.

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