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M'sia turned down MLA request for 1MDB probe, says Swiss AG
Published:  Nov 11, 2016 12:29 PM
Updated: Nov 12, 2016 11:38 AM

Malaysia has rejected Switzerland's request for mutual legal assistance (MLA) in the alleged embezzlement and money laundering probe involving 1MDB.

“Very recently we have had the response that the Malaysian authorities will not reply to our request.

“They just said that under their legal framework, they can’t reply,” Swiss attorney-general Michael Lauber told UK's Financial Times in an interview published today.

According to FT, the Malaysian AG's Chambers denied it was attempting to frustrate the Swiss probe but cited the country's "continuing criminal investigation by Malaysian police in relation to matters concerning 1MDB".

FT quoted the AG's Chambers as saying, “The attorney-general is of the opinion that these requests could prejudice a criminal matter in Malaysia," and adding, there is “no issue of Malaysia blocking the Swiss criminal inquiry”.

Last month attorney-general (AG) Mohamed Apandi Ali confirmed that his office had received the request from Switzerland's Office of the Attorney-General.

This was the Swiss AG's second MLA request to Malaysia, after the AG's Chambers claimed it did not received the first application.

Investigations linked to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's pet project, the debt-ridden Finance Ministry fund 1MDB, are under way in a number of countries worldwide including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.

Apandi has cleared Najib of any wrongdoing.

Swiss undaunted

Meanwhile, Lauber said the rejection will not derail the investigations and the Swiss will seek cooperation from other countries such as Singapore as well as US and European authorities.

“We will protect the integrity of our financial centre as others protect theirs. For that we need international co-operation and if, for whatever reason, there is none - as is the case here with Malaysia - we will find other ways, and we have great co-operation with several other jurisdictions,” he was reported saying.

Lauber added that the Swiss investigations will focus on the local players and not on Najib.

“Our goal is not to go against any foreign, politically-exposed persons so long as there is no direct impact on our investigations, which are clearly focused on the Swiss financial centre and maintaining its integrity,” Lauber told the daily.

He added that the election of Donald Trump as the new US president is not expected to impact cooperation with the Swiss.

“Until now, our co-operation with our US Department of Justice (DOJ) partners and in particular with (US attorney-general) Loretta Lynch has been excellent - whether in fighting terrorism, organised crime, economic crime or money laundering,” he said.

“I am confident that we can continue our cooperation because there is always a mutual interest in assisting each other on huge cases like this one.”

The DOJ launched its biggest kleptocracy sweep this year in a series of forfeiture suits over assets and expenses made in the country using funds it alleges had been embezzled from 1MDB.

Named in the suits are Malaysian businessman Jho Low and Najib's stepson Riza Aziz.

Mentioned 36 times in the court filings was also an unnamed figure cited as 'Malaysian Official 1'.

The scandal has prompted the calling of the Bersih 5 rally on Nov 19 in Kuala Lumpur.

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