Malaysia police search home and offices of former PM Najib

Days after election defeat, armed police carry out raid in connection with graft inquiry

Malaysian police stand at the entrance to the home of former prime minister Najib Razak in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday night. Photograph: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Malaysian police stand at the entrance to the home of former prime minister Najib Razak in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday night. Photograph: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

 

Malaysian police on Thursday searched ousted prime minister Najib Razak’s home and other places linked to him in connection with an inquiry into scandal-plagued state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a senior police officer said.

Armed police entered Mr Najib’s family home on Wednesday night, a drama thousands watched unfold as it was streamed live and an extraordinary scenario that few could have predicted before the country’s May 9th general election, which he was expected to win.

Amar Singh, director of police commercial crime investigations, said that searches were continuing at that house, at the prime minister’s office and a residence he had used, as well as two apartments owned by his family.

“We are in the midst of collecting information, we will have more details once we have completed our search,” he said, confirming that the searches were related to investigations into the 1MDB scandal that had dogged Mr Najib since 2015.

The multibillion-dollar scandal over the fund founded by Mr Najib is being investigated by police in at least six countries, including the United States. Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak: has denied any wrongdoing. Photograph: Sadiq Asyraf/AP
Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak: has denied any wrongdoing. Photograph: Sadiq Asyraf/AP

A lawyer for Mr Najib, Harpal Singh Grewal, said early on Thursday that police seized only a few personal items from his family home. “They found nothing incriminating,” he said, adding that a couple of handbags were among items police took away.

When asked whether Mr Najib would be arrested, he said: “There is no indication that they [the police] will do it.”

He said Mr Najib and his family were co-operative with police. “They [the police] also acted professionally,” he said.

Later, however, a police truck packed full with big, blue boxes left the compound of the house, a Reuters witness said. There was no immediate word on what was in the boxes.

Barred from leaving

Days after Malaysia’s long-ruling political coalition was defeated in the election, new prime minister Mahathir Mohamad barred Mr Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.

Mr Najib was once a protege of Mr Mahathir (92), who now says there is sufficient evidence to investigate the scandal at 1MDB.

Asked about the searches at a news conference, Mr Mahathir said it was a police matter, and he had little information. But he added: “I suppose the police have enough reasons to raid.”

Mr Mahathir has replaced the country’s attorney general and officials at the anti-graft agency, in what appears to be a purge of people seen as close to the former premier.

US authorities allege that more than $4.5 billion (€3.8 billion) was stolen from 1MDB in a fraud orchestrated by a financier known to be close to Mr Najib and his family. US attorney general Jeff Sessions has called the 1MDB scandal “kleptocracy at its worst”.

Filings by the US justice department in a civil lawsuit indicated nearly $30 million of the money stolen was used to buy jewellery for the prime minister’s wife, including a rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace.

Malaysian politics has undergone a sea-change in the last eight days with the stunning defeat of Mr Najib, his replacement by Mr Mahathir and the pardon and release of jailed reformist Anwar Ibrahim on Wednesday.

Mr Anwar teamed up with Mr Mahathir, his ally-turned-foe-turned-ally, to oust Mr Najib. The relationship between the two remains volatile, however, and will likely determine what course Malaysia will chart in the coming months. – Reuters