Malaysia again rebuffs Swiss request for help in 1MDB probe

November 11, 2016 3:10 AM EST

Men walk past a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the fund's flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo


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ZURICH (Reuters) - Malaysia has again rebuffed Switzerland's request for legal assistance in probing suspected corruption linked to scandal-hit state fund 1MDB, the Swiss attorney general's office said on Friday.

But it said Kuala Lumpur's decision would not hinder the Swiss probe as it works with other countries on the case.

"We respect Malaysia's independent decision on this matter. However, the Malaysian authorities remain free to use the information provided in Switzerland's requests for assistance in their own investigations," Attorney General Michael Lauber said, confirming a report by the Financial Times.

"What is certain is that our own criminal proceedings, which are about maintaining the integrity of the Swiss financial system, will continue. We will ask other jurisdictions for support – for example Singapore, with which we have worked very well, other European jurisdictions and the U.S."

The FT cited the Malaysian attorney-general's chambers as saying it was unable to accede to Switzerland's requests because of a continuing criminal investigation by Malaysian police in relation to matters concerning 1MDB.

Malaysia was committed to co-operating with international partners and there was "no issue of Malaysia blocking the Swiss criminal inquiry", it added, according to the FT.

A source familiar with the discussions told Reuters that while Swiss officials publicly allude to expectations that Malaysia will cooperate, privately the Malaysians have demanded that the Swiss drop their investigation.

Malaysian officials were not immediately available to comment.

Lauber's office said in January it suspected misappropriations from 1MDB totaled roughly $4 billion and alleged last month that a Ponzi scheme may have been set up to conceal an alleged $800 million fraud.

Swiss federal prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings against two Swiss private banks and four unidentified people over their links to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Founded by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who chaired its advisory board, 1MDB is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said Malaysia will cooperate with the international investigations.

(Reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Toby Chopra)



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