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Singapore freezes bank accounts in 1MDB scandal

July 22, 2015

Police in Singapore have frozen two bank accounts as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering at Malaysia's troubled state fund 1MDB. It's alleged the fund funneled millions of dollars to the premier.

Malaysia 1MDB Werbetafel in Kuala Lumpur
Image: Reuters/O. Harris

Singapore police said in a statement Wednesday that they had taken the step on July 15 to "prohibit any dealings in respect of money in two bank accounts that are relevant to the investigation."

It's the first time accounts outside of Malaysia have been frozen in connection to the probe into corruption at the state-run development firm, 1Malaysia Development Berhad. Authorities declined to identify the banks or the accounts in question because the investigation is ongoing.

The investment fund has faced criticism over allegations of financial mismanagement and its debt of around 42 billion ringgit ($11.09 billion; 10.13 billion euros). Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak chairs the fund's advisory board.

Malaysia Ministerpräsident Najib Razak
PM Najib Razak has come under fire over his alleged involvement in the graft claimsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Ismail

PM under pressure

Citing documents from a government probe, "The Wall Street Journal" reported earlier this month that some $700 million (631 million euros) had been wired to Najib's personal accounts through various entities linked to 1MDB. According to the report, there had been several deposits moving through Singapore's Falcon Bank into Najib's accounts in Malaysia, with the largest transactions carried out in March 2013 during an election campaign. 1MDB has questioned the authenticity of the documents.

Singapore's central bank has said it is in contact with financial institutions in relation to the 1MDB probe and Falcon Bank has said it is cooperating with their enquiries. On Tuesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said it was looking into whether banks had followed rules on reporting suspicious transactions and identifying customers and their sources of funds.

"We're actually looking back to see if they have done all these things," MAS managing director Ravi Menon said.

A task force investigating the 1MDB allegations has already frozen half a dozen bank accounts in Malaysia. Authorities also arrested two people this week for questioning.

Najib, who took office in 2009, has denied the accusations of money laundering, dismissing them as part of a malicious campaign to bring down his leadership. Two opposition parties have called on the prime minister to take a leave of absence while the allegations are investigated.

nm/kms (Reuters, dpa)