1MDB's head agrees to live television debate

Neelabh Chaturvedi
Arul Kanda, president and group executive director of Malaysia's state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
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The saga at Malaysia's beleaguered sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has taken another turn, with the fund's top executive agreeing Thursday to a live television debate.

Arul Kanda, 1MDB's president and group executive director, announced in a statement that he was willing to a verbal sparring session with opposition leader Tony Pua, but on one condition: Pua must resign from the Public Accounts Committee, which is investigating 1MDB.

"Despite his efforts to do so, YB Tony Pua cannot be judge, jury and executioner. As such, I trust he will have the courage to do the right thing and resign from the PAC in order for us to have, in his words, a 'no-holds barred' discussion on live television," Kanda said in a statement.

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The fund has been under scrutiny for months amid allegations of false auditing, huge debt and, more recently, financial fraud, with alleged links to Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak himself.

Sultans from nine of Malaysia's states, who typically keep to ceremonial duties, have asked for an investigation into the fund while the country's central bank this month urged the attorney general to begin criminal investigation of 1MDB, amid signs of increasing unease with the government's handling of the affair.

Signage for 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB) is displayed at the site of the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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Pua, a lawmaker with Malaysia's biggest opposition party—the Democratic Action party—first questioned Najib on the fund's 425 million ringgit ($99.7 million) profit in 2010, two years after the fund had been created.

Earlier Thursday, Pua had asked Kanda to attend a "live" talkshow which Pua would host and ask the questions.

Kanda would be given every opportunity and as much time as he likes to answer these questions, Pua said.

Kanda said Pua's place on the committee represented a conflict of interest and his departure would maintain the integrity of the probe.