KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will take legal action against individuals named in civil lawsuits filed by U.S. prosecutors last month if there is proof that they defrauded a Malaysian state-owned fund, a government minister said on Thursday.
More than $3.5 billion was allegedly misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), founded by Prime Minister Najib Razak, according to civil lawsuits filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
Minister Senator Paul Low, whose portfolio covers governance and integrity, said criminal prosecution “must be instituted” against all involved if funds were “stolen from us”.
“Our enforcement agencies and the attorney-general must cooperate fully with all international agencies to deal with the matter in an appropriate manner in order to allay negative perception and restore the trust and confidence of the people for the government,” he said, according to the official text of a speech at a function on Thursday.
The U.S. lawsuits named several individuals, including Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, popularly referred to as Jho Low.
The civil suits also seek to seize $1 billion in assets believed to have been bought using money stolen from 1MDB, the largest case to date in the U.S. Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
Prime Minister Najib has weathered persistent calls for him to step down over his handling of the 1MDB scandal, which is also being investigated by at least five other countries.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing and has said the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit does not involve him.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)