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Malaysia's Najib pledges no cover-up in probe of indebted fund



Malaysia's Najib pledges no cover-up in probe of indebted fund

In surprise interview, prime minister also says he accepts public criticism against his leadership

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 1:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 1:29am

Associated Press in Kuala Lumpur


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin pictured this week. Photo: AP

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged there would be no cover-up in the investigation of a debt-laden state investment fund and reiterated he was not involved in the murder of a Mongolian woman nine years ago.

Police have said there was no evidence to connect Najib, who was deputy premier at the time of the murder, but new allegations emerged recently that revived talks of a political conspiracy. The woman was killed with gunfire and military explosives in 2006, and two police officers were recently sentenced to hang.

In a surprise television interview yesterday on channel TV3, Najib also said he accepted public criticism against his leadership and defended the government's move to revive detention without trial.

The interview appeared aimed at rebutting increasing criticism of him by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has warned on his blog that there was "something rotten in the state of Malaysia" and predicted the ruling coalition may lose the next general elections with Najib at the helm.

Mahathir stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in power, but remains an influential political commentator.

Mahathir has echoed critics' concerns about state investment fund 1MDB's 42 billion ringgit (HK$90 billion) debt, an alleged lack of transparency, why billions of ringgit were kept in the Cayman Islands and if the money had financed a Hollywood movie by Najib's stepson.

1MDB has nearly defaulted on its loan payment, and its huge debt raised fears a possible bailout could leave the government bankrupt.

Najib stressed that 1MDB's assets were worth more than its debts and that it needed more time to become financially stable.

However, he stressed he would "not accept any misuse of the funds such as if the money disappeared, was siphoned off" or was used to finance any movie. A private audit has cleared 1MDB, but Najib said he ordered the country's auditor-general to investigate as well as a parliamentary committee.

"I have given my word that in the case of 1MDB, if there is abuse of funds, we will not defend anyone," he said.

Najib also said an effort to link him to the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu was "an old story".

He said that he had taken an oath in a mosque in 2008 that he didn't know the woman nor was he involved in the case either directly or indirectly. There was also never any evidence to show that he ever knew the woman, who had an affair with Najib's friend, the premier said.

Najib said he still respected Mahathir despite the attacks on his leadership.

"I will continue my leadership. I am open to criticism. Nobody is perfect, I am prepared to improve ... but at the end of the day, I am answerable only to the people and to the party," he said.

Najib said the ruling Malay party, the backbone of the coalition, would not fail if it remained united and there was no sabotage from within the party.

Support for the ruling coalition has eroded amid anger over corruption and racial discrimination.