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Malaysia's Mahathir pledges to recover billions 'lost' from 1MDB sovereign wealth fund

Mahathir also said that the country's king would grant a pardon to Anwar Ibrahim [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2018

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Malaysia's new prime minister has pledged to recover money allegedly misappropriated by the country's former leader in an international corruption scandal.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has pledged to recover billions of dollars allegedly lost in a corruption scandal involving the country's 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign wealth fund.

The 92-year-old, who returned to office as premier on after 15 years, made the announcement during his first press conference after being sworn in on Thursday.

"We believe that we can get most of the 1MDB money back," Dr Mahathir said.

The 1MDB scandal had dogged the government of former prime minister Najib Razak, a one-time protege of Mahathir, after he was accused of siphoning $700m from the fund.

Najib claimed that the money, which was deposited in his personal bank account, was a donation from the Saudi royalty.

"The big, noisy element [in the election] was the 1MDB crisis. On hindsight, 1MDB also led to other things, there were second and third order effects," said Najib's brother, Nazir Razak, in an interview with Bloomberg.

"Given the incongruous treatment of the 1MDB issue at home and abroad, of course, it has affected Malaysia's reputation...I think the rakyat [people] also voted against that," he added.

On Friday, Mahathir called for a fresh probe into the 1MDB scandal.

"At the moment the attorney-general has undermined his own credibility," he said, referring to the government-appointed official who cleared Najib of misconduct.

"He in fact has hidden evidence of wrongdoings and that is wrong in law." 

"We have to do what is permitted by the laws of this country. For that we will have to consult administrators and lawyers to find out if what we do is in keeping with laws of this country," he added.

Royal pardon for Anwar

On Friday, Mahathir also announced that Malaysia's monarch is willing to grant a royal pardon to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

As part of the election deal struck with his coalition partners, Mahathir is expected to step aside within two years to allow Anwar to take the role of prime minister.

"The (king) has indicated he is willing to pardon Anwar immediately," Mahathir said.

"We will begin the ... proper process of obtaining a pardon. This means a full pardon. He should be released immediately when he is pardoned."

Mahathir's return to the forefront of Malaysian politics saw him team up with Anwar, his former deputy, who he had jailed in 1999 and 2000 for corruption and sodomy. 

As leader of Malaysia's opposition, Anwar had made successive gains in the country's 2008 and 2013 elections.

He was returned to jail in 2014 on the eve on a state by-election that he was widely expected to win.

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