KUALA LUMPUR – Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday that the opposition coalition had no influence on the lawsuit filed by the US government to recover assets allegedly bought with funds stolen from state investment firm 1MDB.
Last week, US authorities moved to seize another US$540 million in assets that was allegedly used to buy high-end property, a yacht and art pieces amongst other things.
It was the second filing by the Department of Justice (DoJ) after Washington sought to confiscate more than US$1 billion last year.
“I have never met any American official but certainly the opposition has no influence at all on the detailed investigations carried out by the US government,” he told Channel NewsAsia.
“I’m flattered that you should think that we have influence over the US government. You know nobody has influence over the US government. Even (Donald) Trump is finding difficulty,” he added.
Dr Mahathir was responding to accusations from Malaysian ministers who demanded to know who the complainants of the suit were.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, reportedly said on Sunday that naming the complainants was necessary so the public could tell how deeply involved they were with the opposition parties, whose agenda is to overthrow Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mr Najib helped set up and advised 1MDB, and is said to be implicated in the complaint.
Dr Mahathir quit Mr Najib’s party UMNO last year, saying that he had lost confidence in him over the 1MDB scandal.
In October 2015, two people close to Dr Mahathir – former UMNO man Khairuddin Abu Hassan and lawyer Matthias Chang – were charged with attempting to sabotage Malaysia’s banking and financial services by lodging reports to foreign authorities on state fund 1MDB. They were acquitted in May this year.
However, Dr Mahathir added that what the pair were accused of doing happened “long before” his opposition party, the Malaysian United Indigneous Party (PPBM), was formed.
“This happens to involve crimes committed in the US, Switzerland and elsewhere. This is the right of the Americans – in fact they were already investigating, so failing to get any response (from) Malaysia, they (Khairuddin & Matthias) thought America should take an interest in this, and that’s what they did,” he said.
“I NEVER TOOK A SINGLE CENT”: MAHATHIR
Dr Mahathir has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Najib Razak, accusing him of corruption and abuse of power.
However, critics have alleged that Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister is in no position to criticize, having ruled like an authoritarian during his more than two decades in charge of the government.
“I never took any single cent from the government or from the public whatsoever … Tell me when was I investigated for corruption?” he said.
“Even the Internal Security Act was carried out according to the provisions of the law. I abided by the law. Show me, where I haven’t abided by the law? You may not like what I did but it was according to the law,” he added.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak reportedly said on Saturday that the opposition’s effort to seek foreign intervention in Malaysian matters of state is an “act of treason” that would have gotten them detained under the Internal Security Act during Dr Mahathir’s era as Prime Minister.
However, Dr Mahathir was adamant that he has never been close to the United States government.
“You know my stand about the US, I have been very critical,” he said.