KUALA LUMPUR: An Australian senator has called on Canberra to instruct its banking commission and other agencies to investigate if there is any link between Australia and the 1MDB scandal.
Senator Lee Rhiannon told Australia’s SBS News that if an investigation found that money had been funnelled from 1MDB, it should be returned to Malaysians.
Rhiannon of the Greens party said Australia should emulate the US and Singapore which have launched investigations into 1MDB transactions asset recovery initiatives.
SBS quoted Rhiannon as saying: “There is a role for Australia using Austrac (Australia’s financial intelligence agency) and possibly the Australian banking royal commission that is on right at the moment, to determine what happened, and to ensure that money, if it has been abused and funnelled to people inappropriately, is returned to the people of Malaysia.”
The Australian lawmaker said this in the wake of charges against former prime minister Najib Razak at the High Court yesterday.
The former Umno president pleaded not guilty to three counts of criminal breach of trust and one for abuse of power revolving around RM42 million which purportedly entered his Ambank account from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
Australian banking giant ANZ is the single largest shareholder of AmBank, with a 24% stake.
SBS reported that the stake, purchased in 2006, enabled ANZ to appoint key management positions in the bank, as well as hold four seats on the 12-seat board.
ANZ’s current CEO Shane Elliott sat on the board of AmBank from 2013 to 2015 when the transactions were said to have taken place.
ANZ has denied wrongdoing, saying none of its staff had anything to do with 1MDB or alleged money laundering at AmBank, the report said.
Last year, SBS News revealed that the full AmBank board, including three ANZ representatives, were briefed on the suspicious transactions into Najib’s accounts between September 2014 and November 2014.
After the briefing, according to the report, the board instructed AmBank CEO Ashok Ramamurthy to report the suspicious transactions to Bank Negara Malaysia.
In November 2015, AmBank said it had been fined RM53.7 million by Bank Negara over a breach of “certain regulations” under Section 234 of the Financial Services Act 2013 and Section 245 of the Islamic Financial Services Act 2013 by AmBank (M) Bhd and AmBank Islamic Bhd, respectively.
Bank Negara’s action, AmBank had said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia, “came about because of weaknesses in our reporting systems and processes in place at the time, as well as inadequate skills on the part of some of our staff”.