World Economy

Singapore Seizes A/Cs Linked to 1MDB

Singapore Seizes A/Cs Linked to 1MDBSingapore Seizes A/Cs Linked to 1MDB

Authorities in Singapore say they have seized a “large number” of bank accounts that various media have linked to a Malaysian government-run fund that stirred controversy around Prime Minister Najib Razak. While Singaporean authorities didn’t confirm the link, according to The Straits Times, the move comes days after Switzerland said it would submit evidence of illegal transactions to Malaysian authorities, asking them to help pursue the investigation.

“Singapore does not tolerate the use of its financial system as a refuge or conduit for illicit funds,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the commerce affairs department said in a joint statement. They added that they have been investigating possible offenses since mid-2015 and continue to get information from various institutions and individuals, IBTimes reported.

They said they are working closely with Malaysian, Swiss and American investigators.

Najib organized 1 Malaysia Development Berhad soon after taking office in 2009 to fund infrastructure among other projects and remains the chairman of its advisory board. The fund is now $11 billion in debt and selling assets to deal with a cash crunch. After months of speculation that the $680 million deposited in Najib’s bank accounts had come from 1MDB, Malaysia’s attorney general said last week it was a legal donation from Saudi royals. In July, a previous attorney general who linked the money in Najib’s account to 1MDB was replaced.

In a joint statement by the country’s 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, BBC reported.

“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 $4 billion, 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”.

The developments come just before Najib and other Southeast Asian leaders hold a special summit with US President Barack Obama in California this month. Obama is strengthening ties with the region to help counter China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and to tap the region’s large and fast-growing economies.

Najib plays a key role as the leader of the region’s richest economy, as Malaysia’s per capita income follows those of oil-rich Brunei and city-state Singapore, while its GDP follows Indonesia and Thailand.