A senior official in Malaysia's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said that authorities are "close to the holy grail" regarding the explosive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal gripping the south east Asian country.
In an exclusive interview with IBTimes UK, panel member Tony Pua revealed: "The full and complete truth behind 1MDB will be exposed and we are getting closer to that." Earlier this month, the auditor-general's report on 1MDB was classified under Malaysia's Official Secrets Act (OSA). This drew widespread criticism from the general public, who were barred from viewing it.
The classification is only a temporary measure, according to Pua. "Our understanding of the classification is [that it is] short-term. It is meant to be declassified once the PAC tables the full report to parliament." The Petaling Jaya Utara MP also issued a call for closer co-operation between local and foreign authorities in order to "finally conclude the entire money trail of where the money went from 1MDB."
Tracing the money will be key in determining exactly who deposited hundreds of millions of dollars into the personal accounts of embattled prime minister Najib Razak. In July 2015, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that $681m (£479m) had been paid into the prime minister's personal bank accounts, which he claimed was a donation from the Saudi royal family. Earlier this month, it was revealed that over $1bn had found its way into Razak's account, with many saying that it originated from 1MDB.
What will the reports reveal?
"The conclusion that it is a donation is unbelievable in the first place, nobody in their right mind would donate that much money – and not into the personal accounts of a sitting prime minister. Hence the suspicion that the money comes from 1MDB continues," Pua said.
"What happened is that 1MDB would have paid intermediaries before that money went into the prime minister's account. What is needed today is to determine the money trail to 1MDB, the intermediary and the prime minister's account."
Neither the auditor-general nor the PAC's report touch on the money trail outside of Malaysia, as authorities do not have access to such information. "At this point in time, the report focuses on the management of 1MDB, the outcome of investment and whether there was mismanagement, misappropriation and further investigations that are needed to be carried out against the company and its executives," Pua said. He added that information over the alleged donation would need to come from other investigating authorities, both foreign and local.
Can Razak continue as prime minister?
Razak has so far managed to resist calls demanding his resignation – hardly surprising given that there is much more at stake than just his professional standing. "It doesn't look like he will resign," said Pua.
"There's no reason for him to want to resign because if he were to resign and the crimes were to be proven, his only option is to end up in jail. In the unlikely event that he does, then the opposition coalition will have to work out a formula... to form, perhaps, a transition government until the next general election [in 2018]." Pua ruled himself out from Malaysia's top job, saying the country is not yet ready to accept a non-Malay as PM just yet.
Impeachment is not a possibility either due to the country's power structure, which is ultimately held by the prime minister – either directly or indirectly. "The key problem behind what we are facing today is the fact that our institutions have been captured... by the office of the prime minister. He gets to sack the attorney-general at will, he gets to replace investigating officers in the police department as well as the anti-corruption commission, he gets to remove his deputy prime minister at will as well, he controls the wheels of power both in his political party as well as the government," said Pua.