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Malaysia Freezes Bank Accounts Amid Report Of Cash Transfers To Premier

Malaysian authorities have frozen six bank accounts in connection with an investigation into nearly $700 million allegedly transferred into Prime Minister Najib Razak's bank accounts.

The Wall Street Journal, which reported last week on the alleged transfers, cited "a person aware of the probe" saying at least one of the frozen accounts belonged to Najib.

At issue is 1Malaysia Development Bhd, or 1MDB, the troubled state investment fund that has debts of $11 billion and is struggling to pay its bondholders. The Journal reported July 2 that Malaysian investigators looking into the fund traced nearly $700 million into Najib's personal account. The prime minister, who chairs the fund's advisory board, has denied the claims, blaming his political enemies for the allegations.

The newspaper reported five deposits were made into Najib's account; the two largest — $620 million and $61 million — were made via a Swiss Bank in 2013 from a British Virgin Islands-registered company.

Here's more from the Journal's story Tuesday:

"A joint statement issued by Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar and the chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Abu Kassim Mohamed, also said authorities took documents relating to 17 accounts from two banks to assist the investigation.

"The statement said other documents relating to the noncompliance of banking regulations have also been retrieved."

The newspaper published documents it said were from the government's investigation into the money trail. The Journal noted: "Investigation documents reviewed by the Journal didn't provide the original source of the money or specify what happened to the cash after it allegedly entered Mr. Najib's accounts."

The claims about the payments have prompted calls for Najib's resignation or for him to take a leave of absence. He has been prime minister since 2009.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.