Civil society groups hail push to return 1MDB funds

The 1MDB case involves money-laundering probes in at least six countries including Switzerland, the US and Singapore.(Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Several civil society organisations today hailed the initiative by Swiss lawmakers to amend legislation on how to handle ill-gotten bank profits seized by authorities, amid the push for 104 million Swiss francs (RM400 million) linked to 1MDB to be returned to Malaysians.

Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) director Cynthia Gabriel, who was in Bern for a meeting with the organisations and Swiss MPs yesterday, said an open debate in Parliament on the issue had never taken place.

“It is a shame that the Malaysian government has deliberately refused to acknowledge the illicit profits and financial flows related to 1MDB, leaving the Swiss Parliament to debate and vote on the 1MDB scandal,” she said in a joint statement today.

Global Bersih director Bala Chelliah meanwhile said Prime Minister Najib Razak should account for “the missing billions” if he wanted a fresh mandate from Malaysians.

Shahrul Aman, the acting chairman of electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0, added that he hoped the money would be returned to the people through an independent trust fund.

Swiss MP Carlo Sommaruga, who is leading the legislative effort to amend the law, had said Switzerland’s international reputation was at stake if it ignored the “justified demands from Malaysia”.

The 1MDB case involves money-laundering probes in at least six countries including Switzerland, the US and Singapore.

A total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice.

Sommaruga’s motion will be discussed and voted on tomorrow in the National Council, one of the Swiss Parliament’s two chambers.

Lukas Straumann, who is director of the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund, said Switzerland had a great international responsibility in the issue.

“It should take the lead to enable a fair and transparent recovery of corruption proceeds to the countries of origin,” he added in the statement.

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