by S BIRRUNTHA
The allegation that 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) debt has not yet been paid is baseless as the debt will only mature in 2039, said Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz.
He explained that the 1MDB’s principal debt was RM32.3 billion, while the interest payment amounts to RM6.5 billion.
“The allegation that we have not yet paid 1MDB’s debt is baseless as the principal of the debt will only mature later.
“The maturity date of the RM32.3 billion is between 2022 to 2039. So, we are yet to repay the principal amount of 1MDB debts, but we have started paying the interest,” he said in response to a supplementary question from Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng in the Dewan Rakyat.
Lim sought clarification on whether former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim that the government had yet to pay any 1MDB principal debts was true.
Answering Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim’s question on the closure of consumer bank accounts, Tengku Zafrul said banks could impose restrictions on any customers or bank accounts suspected of being involved in account misuse or criminal activities.
He said if the account transaction raised suspicion, the bank could impose temporary restrictions on the account to enable a comprehensive assessment to be carried out, while ensuring that money from fraudulent or other criminal activities were not removed from the account.
“This is based on the analysis conducted by the bank. Among the forms of restrictions that banks can impose are restricting Internet banking facilities, debit cards and automatic teller machines, as well as closing accounts after the bank is satisfied with their assessment results.
“After implementing the measure and assessing the level of risk accordingly, the bank may, subject to a restraining order issued by the authorities, decide to continue the transaction or business dealings with the account holder, or based on certain factors, decide not to proceed or close the customer’s account immediately,” he noted.
Tengku Zafrul emphasised that the measure to close the account was only taken after the implementation of a thorough assessment was done and after giving notice within a reasonable period to the customer.
He said in short, the termination of the relationship between the bank and the customer is not a requirement under the law, adding that it is a business call by the bankers or financial institutions based on their internal risk assessment.
The minister also highlighted that Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has published guidelines and best practices to assist banks in Malaysia in implementing customer due diligence; effective customer risk profiling; identifying the existence of a financial fraud through instructions (red flags); as well as understanding the latest rules and trends in financial crime.