PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was questioned by the anti-corruption authority on Tuesday, as investigation related to the state investment company 1MDB gains pace.
Mohd Shukri Abdull, chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), said Najib was called in to explain how a 42 million-ringgit (10.6 million U.S. dollars) deposit was made to his personal bank account from SRC International, a subsidiary of 1MDB.
At a press conference called shortly afterwards, Shukri told reporters that at the moment they only asked Najib to record a statement, not to arrest him, but charges could be filed "very soon." He said the anti-corruption agency has received new information related to Najib, but declined to elaborate.
Shukri, the former MACC deputy who was forced to retire early but was called back after Mahathir came to power, said he almost died when investigating 1MDB in 2015. Recounting how investigators around him were removed or purged, he at one point choked with sobs in front of reporters, saying he accepted the job again for the country.
The investigation on SRC International is only a part of large-scale efforts by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to correct the alleged wrongdoings committed by Najib, including 1MDB related debt.
Mahathir also set up a task-force, comprised of personnel from the MACC, the Attorney-General's Chambers, Royal Malaysian Police and Malaysian Central Bank, to recover the assets funneled overseas.
Lim Guan Eng, the new finance minister, also weighed in on 1MDB. When attending a press conference on Tuesday, Lim said he has found that the ministry of finance has been bailing out 1MDB's debt service obligations since April 2017, contrary to what the previous government has been saying.
"Payments by the Ministry of Finance on behalf of 1MDB has amounted to 6.98 billion ringgit (1.76 billion U.S. dollars)," he said, adding 1MDB is one of the main factors that have contributed to Malaysia's high-level debt, totaling more than 1 trillion ringgit.
Besides the amount of 143.75 million ringgit due to be paid by 1MDB on May 30, Lim said another 810.21 million ringgit worth of interest is due between September and November, 2018.
The Malaysian police also seized a trove of cash, jewelry and designer handbags from several premises related to Najib, including his private residence and luxury condominiums, as part of a corruption probe following the election.
But Shukri did not elaborate on the relevance between the 1MDB investigation and the search, saying it should be answered by the police.
Shukri did not specify how long the investigation will last. He said it will depend on the documents. "If we feel satisfied we can release him. If we need his statement, we will call him back," he said.
Najib, who went into the MACC building at around 9:45 a.m. local time, came out at around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. He praised the professionalism of MACC officers and said he will come back on Thursday to continue. Najib denied any wrongdoing related to 1MDB during his premiership.