Malaysia said Tuesday it was investigating claims China offered to help bail out scandal-hit state fund 1MDB and get foreign probes into the controversy dropped in return for securing infrastructure deals.
The Wall Street Journal reported Chinese officials offered in 2016 to help bail out the debt-mired fund, and said they would try to use their influence to get countries to drop investigations into the case, citing minutes from meetings between Chinese and Malaysian officials.
Stolen 1MDB money was allegedly laundered via a complex web of transactions around the world, and countries including Singapore, the US and Switzerland have launched probes. Despite the reported Chinese offer, the investigations continued.
The Chinese also offered to bug the homes and offices of Wall Street Journal reporters in Hong Kong who were investigating 1MDB to find out who was passing information to them, the paper said.
In exchange, the report said that Malaysia promised stakes in railway and pipeline projects as part of China's "Belt and Road Initiative", a major infrastructure drive seeking to link Asia, Europe and Africa.
Within months, the government in Kuala Lumpur signed billions of dollars worth of deals with Chinese state companies backed by funding from Chinese banks.
"If there is anything that explicitly states this in black and white, we will pursue the case," he was cited as saying.
A finance ministry spokeswoman confirmed Lim made the comments.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he had not heard about the report, adding: "China and Malaysia are working together on specific projects and both countries have maintained very good and friendly relations".
The foreign ministry has previously denied money from its infrastructure programme was used to bail out 1MDB, the Journal said.
According to its report, Malaysian officials suggested that some of the infrastructure projects should be financed at above-market values, which would generate extra money for other needs.
Fugitive Malaysian financer Jho Low, the alleged mastermind of the 1MDB fraud, drew up plans for Malaysian officials to meet the Chinese and attended some of the meetings, the paper said.
Low, who is reported to be living in China, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Since the defeat of Najib's government to a reformist alliance in May - the first change of government since Malaysia became an independent country - ties have cooled markedly between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.
New Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who came out of retirement to oust former protege Najib amid public anger over 1MDB, has shelved USD 22 billion worth of Chinese projects.
Najib has been arrested and charged over the scandal since being ejected from office. He denies any wrongdoing.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)