BFF-58 Former Malaysian PM Najib arrested over huge graft probe

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MALAYSIA-POLITICS-CORRUPTION-NAJIB,WRAP

Former Malaysian PM Najib arrested over huge graft probe

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Former Malaysian prime minister
Najib Razak was arrested by anti-corruption investigators Tuesday, officials
said, the latest dramatic development in a widening graft probe that has
engulfed the ex-leader.

Najib, 64, will be charged Wednesday, a taskforce set up to probe
wrongdoing at state fund 1MDB said in a statement, adding he was apprehended
“at his home”.

The arrest is the latest in a series of stunning moves by investigators
that suggest the legal noose is tightening around Najib, his family and many
of his close political and business allies.

Malaysia’s official news agency Bernama said the former premier is expected
to face more than 10 counts of committing criminal breach of trust linked to
SRC International Sdn Bhd, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary
of 1MDB.

According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, $10.6 million
originating from SRC was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts, just
one small part of hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB that allegedly
ended up in his accounts.

The newly appointed attorney general Tommy Thomas would lead the
prosecution team, according to Bernama.

Allegations of massive corruption were a major factor behind the shock
election loss in May of Najib’s long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance
headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib and his cronies were accused of plundering billions of dollars from
the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund to buy everything from US real estate to
artworks.

– Politically motivated –

A press statement issued by Najib’s camp late Tuesday said the impending
charges and other investigations “are politically motivated and the result of
political vengeance” under Mahathir.

It said the current ruling coalition has already “delivered the guilty
verdict” against Najib in public and vowed that the former premier “will
contest these charges to clear his name in court”.

Since the election loss Najib has been banned from leaving the country and
has found himself at the centre of a widening graft probe.

Shortly after his ouster, a vast trove of valuables was seized in raids on
properties linked Najib and his family, including cash, jewellery and luxury
handbags, worth up to $273 million.

He and his luxury-loving wife Rosmah Mansor were questioned by
investigators, as were his stepson Riza Aziz — whose firm produced the hit
2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” — and his former deputy Zahid Hamidi.

A special government task force investigating the 1MDB corruption scandal
said it froze 408 bank accounts containing a total 1.1 billion ringgit ($272
million) last week.

Local media reports said some of the accounts belonged to Najib’s political
party, the once-powerful United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Until
their shock defeat in May, Najib’s party and its coalition allies had run
Malaysia for six decades.

– Sprawling mansion –

A security source told AFP that agents from the MACC arrested Najib at his
home, a sprawling mansion in a well-heeled suburb of Kuala Lumpur.

“They came in three to four unmarked cars,” the source, a senior security
official familiar with the arrest, said.

A spokeswoman for MACC told AFP the former leader was brought to the
commission’s headquarters in the administrative capital Putrajaya outside
Kuala Lumpur.

Najib would stay there overnight and be brought to court Wednesday, she
added.

The US Justice Department, which is seeking to recover items allegedly
bought with stolen 1MDB cash in America, estimates that $4.5 billion in total
was looted from 1MDB.

Veteran legislator Lim Kit Siang, whose party is a member of the current
ruling coalition, said Najib’s arrest had been expected.

“Najib has to answer the allegations. It is long delayed as the scandal has
turned Malaysia into a global kleptocracy country,” he told AFP.

Hamidi, Najib’s former deputy, said: “I respect the rule of law… Let the
rule of law take place.”

BSS/AFP/MRI/2010 hrs