KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 17): Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has joined others to question the whereabouts of 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) money kept in the Caymans, adding that the explanation offered by the Malaysian strategic investor was "shallow".
Newly minted 1MDB chief Arul Kanda Kandasamy recently announced that the US$2.318 billion (RM8.24 billion) Caymans funds have been fully redeemed.
But Mahathir, in an exclusive interview with online news portal Sarawak Report, echoed the concerns raised by opposition party DAP on the fund which is in excess of RM8 billion.
“The explanation does not enlighten us on anything. I want to know which bank it’s kept in now.
"A billion dollars. You must keep it somewhere, you see. I don’t know where the money is. That is part of transparency," the former prime minister said.
The report said Mahathir invited the editor of Sarawak Report to his Perdana Leadership Foundation office in Putrajaya to speak about environmental and human rights issues in Sarawak.
But, he started discussing 1MDB and corruption during the interview, adding that he was not convinced the money had been fully repaid.
Dr Mahathir also questioned the creation and management of the fund.
“They [the managers] came to see me. But they couldn’t explain how the money was raised and why the power plants were bought at such high prices and the commission that was paid to Goldman Sachs,” he added.
The news portal also reported that Dr Mahathir had inside information that raised serious questions over 1MDB's integrity, despite the fund appearing to have plugged the most controversial gap in its accounts.
He told The Sarawak Report that he did not think it was necessary to have such a fund in the first place.
"That’s my difference with the government. I don’t think that it is necessary for us to have a fund like this.
"We are doing well enough without a fund… in the first place they got the money to lend to the Saudis and they put it in hedge funds.
“The government should not be gambling money in hedge funds”, Dr Mahathir added.
He also acknowledged the lack of transparency in the way Malaysia's public finances are managed, which he said led to scandals, where there was little or no outside scrutiny of 1MDB.
He agreed that there was a need for greater transparency to prevent mismanagement of such funds.
DAP's national publicity secretary Tony Pua said 1MDB chief Arul had not explained what he meant that the fund parked in the Caymans had been redeemed in full.
He also urged the new chief to confirm the actual amount received in cash by the company.
Arul said on Tuesday that 1MDB had redeemed the funds it had invested in a Cayman Islands registered fund.
Pua, however, noted that the statement came soon after Arul said in an email interview with The Malaysian Insider that more time was needed to repatriate the funds because of the "size and nature" of the investment.
The strategic investment fund, the brainchild of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and owned by the government, was to have brought back its Cayman funds before the end of November as agreed with its auditors, Deloitte Malaysia.
Pua previously questioned if 1MDB had misled Deloitte over the timeline of the repatriation of the funds because of the delay.
He said with the lack of details, Arul would be doing himself "great injustice if he doesn't wipe the slate clean and increase transparency to rescue and rebuild the troubled company".