Former Malaysia PM Najib and family barred from leaving country

Former Malaysia PM Najib and family barred from leaving country
PHOTO: The Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad barred his predecessor, Najib Razak, from going overseas on Saturday, saying there was enough evidence to investigate his links to a multi-billion-dollar scandal.

Immigration authorities issued a travel ban on Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor just minutes after the ousted prime minister said they were leaving on a weeklong trip overseas to rest after his thumping electoral defeat.

"It is true that I prevented Najib from leaving the country," Mahathir said at a news conference, adding that doing so had averted extradition problems later.

"There is sufficient evidence that an investigation into certain things ... done by the former prime minister has to be done and, if necessary, the rule of law will apply," he said.

During a day of fast-moving events, Mahathir also named his first few cabinet ministers, including Lim Guan Eng, a former banker and qualified chartered accountant, as finance minister. Lim is the chief minister of Penang state, but is largely unknown in international financial circles.

It is also only the second time since Malaysia became independent six decades ago that the post has gone to a member of the ethnic Chinese minority.

Mahathir also named a defence minister and a home or interior minister, but said other appointments would be made later. Mahathir and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of his jailed ally Anwar Ibrahim, make up the rest of the cabinet.

Zeti Akhthar Aziz, who was internationally lauded during a 16-year stint as central bank governor, and billionaire tycoon Robert Kuok were among those named to a special team that will advise the government on economic and financial matters for the next 100 days.

Mahathir has been prime minister of the Muslim Malay-majority nation earlier, for 22 years, governing in a tough, pugnacious style.

He said the attorney general, who had cleared Najib of wrongdoing in the graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), had been sacked.

The attorney general, Apandi Ali, declined to comment.

As Najib came under increased pressure, the world seemed to be opening up for Anwar, who, from jail and a hospital bed, combined with Mahathir to hand out the defeat to the administration alliance.

Mahathir has said the king has indicated to him that a royal pardon for Anwar would be announced soon.

Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah told Reuters her father was likely to be freed on Tuesday.

Late on Saturday, Mahathir met Anwar in his hospital room, where he is recovering from a shoulder operation. There was no word on what was discussed in the first meeting between the two since their alliance won the election.

NO HOLIDAY

After the ban on his travel was announced, Najib said in a Twitter message that he would respect the decision and would remain in the country.

Questions about his whereabouts were answered when he appeared at a meeting of his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to announce that he was stepping down as the party's president and as chairman of the Barisan Nasional, the alliance dominated by UMNO that has ruled Malaysia for six decades.

Earlier, dozens of people - mostly journalists - gathered at an airport near Kuala Lumpur from where Najib and his wife were reported to be leaving for the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and tried to look into cars entering the complex.

"I'm here to catch the thief," said a man in the crowd, as riot police stood on guard. There was no sign that Najib or Rosmah had come to the airport.

Reports had widely circulated on social media and local media that the couple were named on the flight manifest of a private jet scheduled to depart for Jakarta at 10:00 a.m. (0200 GMT).

But police later said there was no flight due to leave the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport with Najib or his wife.

Najib lost the election at least partly because of popular disgust over the 1MDB scandal.

News broke in 2015 that about $700 million allegedly stolen from 1MDB had made its way into his personal bank accounts.

He denied any wrongdoing, even as US authorities alleged that over $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund in a fraud orchestrated by a financier known to be close to Najib and his family.

US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions called the 1MDB scandal "kleptocracy at its worst" and the fund is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Filings by the US Justice Department in a civil lawsuit indicated nearly $30 million of the money stolen was used to buy jewelry for Rosmah, including a rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace.

Mahathir scores shocking win in Malaysian Election

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    Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has officially been sworn in as Malaysia's seventh Prime Minister.

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    Dr Mahathir took his oath of office as Prime Minister before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at the Istana Negara at 9.57pm Thursday (May 10).

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    The 92-year-old was accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

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    This means that Dr Mahathir will be the world's oldest prime minister and the first Malaysian to be premier twice.

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    At a press conference earlier, Dr Mahathir said he would appoint Dr Wan Azizah as deputy prime minister once he is sworn in.

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    Dr Mahathir received the mandate to form the government through Pakatan, which managed to wrest 113 out of 222 federal seats in GE14.

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    Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters during a press conference at the Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel on 10 May 2018.

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    Mahathir Mohamad holds up a document with the signatures of alliance party leaders naming him as the prime minister during a news conference following the general election in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.

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    Najib leaves after a news conference on May 10.

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    Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10 May 2018.

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    Mahathir's stunning defeat of the coalition that has ruled the Southeast Asian country since independence from Britain six decades ago means that, at the age of 92, he will become the oldest elected leader in the world.

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    Official results showed that Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) had won 113 of parliament's 222 seats, clinching the simple majority required to rule.

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    Najib's ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), had 79. Pic: Barisan Nasional party members watch election results updates at the Barisan Nasional coalition headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

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    Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister and opposition candidate for Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), celebrate outside the hotel, where Mahathir Mohamad held news conference, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.

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    Mahathir told a news conference he expected to be sworn in as prime minister later on Thursday.

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    Few had expected Mahathir to prevail against a coalition that has long relied on the support of the country's ethnic-Malay majority.

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    Mahathir has promised to seek a royal pardon for Anwar if they won the election and, once Anwar is free, to step aside and let him become prime minister.

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    Ethnic-Malay Muslims have long tended to support BN for affirmative-action policies that give them government contracts, cheap housing and guaranteed university admissions.

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    Mahathir's alliance, which counts on urban votes and support from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, had hoped the veteran Malay leader would win over voters usually loyal to BN. That strategy appeared to have paid off.

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    Mahathir's opposition wrested control of key states Johor and Kedah, and reduced BN's grip in strongholds like Sarawak.

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    Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrives at SK Titi Gajah in Alor Setar at 10.55am to cast his vote.

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    The Election Commission said voter turnout was at 55 percent out of the total 14,449,200 voters in GE14 as of 1pm on May 9.

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    Dr Mahathir Mohamad is keeping a positive outlook on voter turnout throughout the day.

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    By 5pm May 9, some 70 per cent of voters had cast their ballots for what has been dubbed "the mother of all elections". The latest polls show a neck-and-neck race to the finish for ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH).

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    Voters still queuing up within the compounds of polling stations nationwide for GE14 were not allowed to vote after the 5pm cut-off time but any voter affected can file a petition to demand a re-election.

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    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib votes at a polling station during the 14th general elections in Pekan on May 9, 2018.

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    Malaysians went to the polls on May 9 in one of the country's closest ever elections which pits scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak against his one-time mentor, a 92-year-old former authoritarian leader.

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    The Barisan Nasional chairman arrived at his polling station Sekolah Sains Sultan Ahmad Shah at 9.20 am together with his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor. Najib was all smiles when he was greeted by other voters who were present at the station.

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    9.29am: PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail voted in SK Seri Penanti in Permatang Pauh. After casting her vote, she immediately left and returned to Selangor where she is contesting for Pandan parliamentary seat there.

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    The Barisan chief is in a four-cornered fight for the Pekan seat. (Pic) Barisan Nasional deputy chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis successfully cast their ballots at the Madrasah Manbail Ulum voting centre at Sungai Nipah Darat.

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    Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo cast their vote at SK Sulaiman in Bentong.

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    PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who is defending his Marang parliamentary seat, arrives at SK Rusila in Marang to cast his ballot.

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    EC staff making final preparations at a polling station at Stadium Titiwangsa in Kuala Lumpur.

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    An instruction notice for voters is seen at a voting center on the eve of the 14th general election in Pekan, Pahang on May 8, 2018.

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    Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) offers special prayers a day before the 14th general election at a mosque in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia, May 8, 2018.

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    Women vote during the general election in Alor Setar, Malaysia, May 9, 2018.

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    People boarding buses back to Malaysia. at Singapore's Golden Mile complex on May 8.

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    Supporters listen to a speech by former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad

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    This picture taken on May 8, 2018 shows Malaysians gathering at an election rally in Petaling Jaya to watch a telecast of 92-year-old former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad.

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    Voters queue up in the early morning to cast their ballots at a polling station during the 14th general election in Alor Setar on May 9, 2018.

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