The Journal, citing minutes of meetings between Chinese and Malaysian officials, reported on Monday that the offers were made in 2016. In return Malaysia offered China lucrative stakes in railway and pipeline projects for Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, the report said.
In a statement in response to the Journal report, the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur said China never attached political conditions to its cooperation with other countries. “China has all along adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of any other country. We do not accept any groundless accusations made against China,” the embassy said.
1MDB, founded by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, is the subject of corruption and money-laundering investigations in at least six countries. The scandal was a key reason for the ousting of Najib in the 2018 election, which saw the return of Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister.
Mahathir’s finance minister Lim Guan Eng said the government would study the allegations made in the Journal report. “I have to refer back to any details explicitly said. If it was said in black and white, then it is something we will pursue,” Lim was quoted as saying in Malaysian media.
The US justice department has estimated that a total of $4.5bn was misappropriated by high-level 1MDB fund officials and their associates.
Najib has since been charged with corruption over 1MDB. He pleaded not guilty and has consistently denied wrongdoing.
In a statement issued on his Facebook page late on Tuesday, Najib said China had never offered to bail out 1MDB and he defended the cost of infrastructure projects awarded to China.
Since coming to power in May, Mahathir’s government has accused the Najib administration of inflating the cost of Chinese deals. The new administration has paused more than $20bn worth of projects awarded to Chinese firms, pending review.
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