Recovery of 1MDB funds will be 'sooner than expected, but not very quickly' — MACC lawyer

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 17): Malaysia is expected to take less than nine years to recover the funds potentially lost through troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy public prosecutor S. Thangavelu said today.

"At the rate that we (MACC investigation) are going now, nine years are a bit too long (to settle the case)," Thangavelu said at a panel discussion on "Equanimity: Perspectives on Handling Criminal Investigations Relating to Government Corruption and Abuse of Power" of the International Malaysian Law Conference 2018 (IMLC 2018) here. 

Without providing a specific timeframe, Thangavelu said the case revolving the 1MDB scandal will be settled "sooner than expected, but not very quickly".

He was responding to a question from an IMLC 2018 participant on whether the anti-graft agency could recover the money allegedly stolen from strategic development company 1MDB — the bulk of which are frozen overseas and flowed in multiple jurisdictions such as Singapore, the US and Switzerland — within nine years.

Another panelist Ho Kay Tat, who is the publisher and group chief executive officer of The Edge Media Group, concurred, saying the move to recover money allegedly stolen from 1MDB funds will not take nine years.

"It will take a bit more time," he said, noting it involves cross-border dealings with authorities in multiple jurisdictions. 

"There is a clear determination for Malaysia and also the Swiss authorities to investigate the case," he added.

Ho said although a portion of the stolen 1MDB monies have found its way into the country, a lot of the remaining funds are still abroad. 

Meanwhile, Thangavelu said the MACC officers are doing their level best to investigate the irregularities within 1MDB, some of which have yielded results in the form of criminal prosecution, as well as civil recovery such as the seizure of the RM1 billion Equanimity superyacht. 

In addition, Thangavelu said there were "a lot of dexterity" and efforts in the part of the government and enforcement agencies to recover the alleged stolen 1MDB assets and funds. 

In order to secure conviction in a criminal prosecution, he said the MACC and other relevant authorities must ensure a prima facie case, which transcend beyond reasonable doubt.

"We need to have a full picture and complete all missing puzzles," Thangavelu added. 

Apart from resorting to criminal prosecution, panelist deputy rural development minister Sivarasa Rasiah suggested for the government to establish a special ombudsman "as the glare of publicity often works quicker" in cases such as recovering the alleged stolen 1MDB assets".

"Prosecution will take a longer time, given the duration required to secure conviction and the time required to gather evidence," Sivarasa added.