By Oliver Holmes
Tuesday 2 February 2016
Malaysia has accused Switzerland of breaking protocol and circulating misinformation when its attorney general said last week that billions of dollars had been stolen from Malaysian state-owned companies.
In the most scathing response by a member of the government to date, Malaysia’s Minister of Communications Salleh Said Keruak told the Guardian that “these premature statements appear to have been made without a full and comprehensive appreciation of all the facts.”
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“It’s very unusual, and against normal protocol, for a senior official of one country to speak publicly on the internal matters of another country. Yet that is what the Swiss Attorney General has done,” he said.
Najib was himself cleared of corruption in Malaysia a week ago by the country’s attorney general, who said the Saudi royal family was the source of a $681m “donation” to Najib’s personal accounts just before the 2013 election.
While the Swiss attorney general’s office told the Guardian that Najib was not under accusation, the announcement focused intense international pressure on the government just three days after Najib said accusations against him had “been comprehensively put to rest”.
Cabinet minister Salleh told the Guardian that Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber should have first contacted his counterpart in Malaysia.
“Does the Swiss AG normally talk to the media first, and then the relevant authorities afterwards?” he said. Salleh said 1MBD had undergone extensive audits since 2009 and the $4bn figure “simply could not have been misappropriated under such conditions.”
He accused Lauber of inferring that the Malaysian attorney general had been uncooperative “when in fact Malaysian authorities have been waiting to hear from their Swiss counterparts for many months,” he said, referring to case evidence Malaysia has requested from Switzerland.
Malaysia’s attorney general agreed over the weekend to cooperate with his Swiss counterpart.
Salleh also accused Lauber of spreading misinformation for saying Malaysian companies being investigated have made no comment on the losses they are believed to have incurred.
“As anyone following developments related to 1MDB is well aware, the company has issued statement after statement – providing detailed explanations, and a breakdown of its financials - to address questions that have previously been raised about these alleged losses.”
“In certain Western media outlets, there exists a bias that it’s the institutions and governments of developing countries that don’t play it straight, while Western governments do. In this case, the actions of the Swiss Attorney General prove the opposite,” he said.
Asked to respond to Salleh’s comments, spokesman for the Swiss attorney general André Marty said: “As a law enforcement body and judicial authority, the (Office of the Swiss Attorney General) has not to comment on political statements.”
Marty said his office “took note with satisfaction of the reaction of its Malaysian counterpart and of its commitment to fully support Switzerland’s request for mutual assistance.”