October 13, 2015 / 8:59 AM / 3 years ago

Malaysia prosecutor says right to clear 1MDB over central bank report

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s attorney general said on Tuesday that he was right to close an investigation by the country’s central bank into troubled state-owned investor 1MDB as there was no evidence the fund’s officials had knowingly flouted the law.

Traffic passes a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 6, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/Files

Last week Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said it had urged attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali to prosecute 1MDB, saying the fund had secured permits to remit $1.83 billion overseas based on inaccurate or incomplete disclosure of information, breaching domestic regulations.

The central bank’s statement raised the pressure on 1MDB, which is at the center of a political crisis in Malaysia over its debt of nearly 42 billion ringgit ($10.05 billion) and alleged financial graft.

However Apandi said that at no point in time had the central bank tried to stop 1MDB’s overseas transactions, nor had it required the fund to provide details of account numbers it was sending money to or to outline the manner in which the funds would be channeled.

“Since there is no requirement, the omission on 1MDB’s officials’ part to disclose is not an offense,” said Apandi during a press briefing on Tuesday.

The central bank has also asked 1MDB to repatriate $1.83 billion back into Malaysia, however the fund has said the sum has been spent or ear-marked for debt settlement arrangements.

The money was originally used for equity and loan investments in a joint venture with oil company PetroSaudi between 2009 and 2011.

The central bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and several key Umno leaders called for a swift resolution to the ongoing 1MDB scandal, signaling a further divide within Prime Minister Najib Razak’s party, the United Malays National Organisation.

Reporting By Trinna Leong; Editing by Rachel Armstrong

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