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    Apr 20, 2016

    Mahathir seeks court order to freeze PM Najib's assets


    FORMER Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad has applied for a court order to freeze Prime Minister Najib Razak's assets, his lawyers said yesterday.

    The move comes as the country's debt-ridden state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), is at risk of default due to a dispute involving US$50 million (S$67 million) of interest that was due on Monday.

    The fund is in conflict with Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), which had earlier agreed to pay interest on the bonds.

    But IPIC announced the end of its debt obligations to 1MDB earlier this week, saying the Malaysian fund failed to make a payment of more than US$1 billion in relation to a loan.

    1MDB still expects bondholders to be paid, reported Bloomberg yesterday, as it enters a five-day grace period.

    The Malaysian fund has enough cash to make the interest payment itself and avoid a default on its US$1.75 billion bond. But its president Arul Kanda maintained, in a Bloom-berg Television Malaysia interview yesterday, that the money should come from IPIC.

    Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir's lawyers said in a statement that the former premier was seeking a court order for Mr Najib to disclose all assets held under his name, as well as under the names of his nominees.

    Dr Mahathir has been calling for Mr Najib to resign over the 1MDB scandal. Along with two others, he filed a suit in March against Mr Najib alleging corruption and abuse of power. The lawsuit also accused Mr Najib of interfering in several probes into 1MDB.

    Mr Najib has come under criticism over allegations of graft and mismanagement linked to 1MDB and deposits of about US$681 million into his personal bank account.

    He has denied any wrongdoing and maintains that he did not use the funds for personal gain. In January, Malaysia's Attorney-General cleared Mr Najib of any criminal offence.

    Dr Mahathir was joined in the lawsuit by Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Anina Saadudin, former members of the ruling United Malays National Organisation party, which Mr Najib heads.

    The three are seeking exemplary damages from Mr Najib to the government of RM2.6 billion (S$904 million) and aggravated damages of RM42 million - equal to the amounts deposited into Mr Najib's account.