Malaysia, Singapore Investigators Meet on 1MDB Probe

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Malaysian officials probing state investment company 1MDB are meeting with investigators from Singapore, people familiar with the matter said, signalling that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration will cooperate with probes underway around the globe.

Joshua Paul/AP

 The two sides were gathering around Kuala Lumpur today, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the meetings were private. Singapore has seized hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and jailed bankers over transactions linked to the scandal-plagued fund.

A member of Malaysia’s 1MDB task force formed to coordinate the probe couldn’t immediately comment when reached by phone. A spokesman for Malaysia’s anti-graft commission declined to comment when asked to confirm the meeting. The Singapore police couldn’t immediately confirm the meeting.

Mahathir, who took power earlier this month, is trying to uncover the extent of alleged embezzlement and money laundering at 1Malaysia Development Bhd, which was set up by former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2009 to attract foreign investment. Investigators in the US and Europe had complained of a lack of assistance from Malaysian authorities under the previous administration.

A cooperative Malaysia could help investigators around the world piece together how billions may have been embezzled and laundered through major financial centres in the US, Europe and Asia to finance what the US said were spending sprees by corrupt officials and their associates. Najib’s government and 1MDB had repeatedly insisted all its funds were accounted for.

Members of Malaysia’s 1MDB task force met with officials from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice last week to discuss the focus and direction of probes. Swiss prosecutors have said they wanted to start talks with Malaysian counterparts as soon as possible to better coordinate various criminal probes into the sprawling case.

In recent years, Singapore ordered two Swiss private banks to shut, fined other large banks, seized assets and banned at least eight people from the finance industry for their actions on 1MDB-related transactions. Singapore authorities said this month they’ve cooperated extensively with their Malaysian counterparts on past requests for information related to 1MDB-related transactions.

Prosecutors in Singapore have described 1MDB as the country’s largest and most complex money-laundering case. They said its banking and financial systems were used as conduits for billions of dollars of funds syphoned from 1MDB, aided by officers from the fund and bankers in the city-state who ignored suspicious and high-risk transactions for their own purposes.