KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s newly appointed attorney-general Tommy Thomas said on Wednesday there would be “no cover ups” as he promised to institute criminal and civil action over a graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
At least six countries, including the United States, Singapore and Switzerland, are investigating claims that $4.5 billion was siphoned out of 1MDB, founded by former premier Najib Razak.
“I have therefore to study all the papers in that scandal. We will institute criminal and civil proceedings in our courts against the alleged wrongdoers,” Thomas told reporters on his first day in office.
“All are equal before the law and no one is spared. There will be no cover up.”
He also said he would immediately contact authorities in other countries investigating 1MDB, with the aim of returning billions of dollars allegedly stolen from the fund.
Other tasks on his immediate agenda included repealing oppressive laws, and reviewing Malaysia’s contracts with other countries.
“On my part, I promise to do the right thing, that is to tell the truth and to do justice. Justice must not only be done but it must also be seen to be done,” he said.
Thomas is the country’s first non-Muslim attorney-general in decades, and his appointment had been opposed by some sections of the majority ethnic Malay community.
“Free speech means everybody can criticize you, so I am happy for everybody to criticize me,” Thomas said in response.
He was appointed on Tuesday to replace Mohamed Apandi Ali, who in 2016 had cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in the 1MDB case.
Mohamed Apandi was ordered to go on leave by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, shortly after Najib’s coalition was defeated in a shock election result last month.
Mahathir also reopened 1MDB investigations and barred Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.
Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission has questioned both Najib and Rosmah in connection with a graft probe into SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said in 2016 that the Malaysian government would cooperate with U.S. investigations. Rosmah’s lawyer said she would cooperate fully with investigators in the case.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore