Malaysia seeks to lay multiple charges against ex-premier Najib over 1MDB: Mahathir

PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - Embezzlement and bribery with government money are among the charges that Malaysia is looking to bring against former prime minister Najib Razak following a probe into funds allegedly looted from the state-run fund 1MDB, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday.

Mahathir told Reuters in an interview that Malaysian investigators already "have an almost perfect case" against the principal suspects who had defrauded 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and misappropriated billions of dollars in public funds.

He also described Najib, who had founded 1MDB, as playing a central role.

"He was totally responsible for 1MDB. Nothing can be done without his signature, and we have his signature on all the deals entered into by 1MDB. Therefore, he is responsible," Mahathir said.

Having retired as prime minister in 2003 after 22 years in power, Mahathir - who is aged 92 - came out of retirement and joined the opposition to topple Najib in an election last month.

Following his stunning victory, Mahathir has reopened investigations into 1MDB and Najib's involvement in its operations.

As a result of an anti-kleptocracy probe, the US Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $700 million of that ended up in Najib's personal bank accounts.

Mahathir has barred Najib from leaving Malaysia, and police have searched properties linked to him, while anti-graft investigators have questioned both Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and repeated last week that he did not take money from 1MDB.

Najib's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Investigators are looking to bring "a number of charges" against Najib, Mahathir said, adding those charges would be based on abuse of power when he was prime minister.

They could include "embezzlement, stealing government money, losing government money and a number of other charges. Using government money to bribe. All those things," he said.

Malaysian police search places linked to ousted PM Najib

  • The cash and items seized from the six residences linked to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak amounted to between RM900 million (S$304 million) and RM1.1 billion, say the police.
  • He said that more than 12,000 pieces of jewellery - comprising 2,200 rings, 1,400 necklaces, 2,100 bracelets, 2,800 pairs of earrings,1,600 brooches and 14 tiaras were seized.
  • He added that this was the biggest seizure in Malaysian history.
  • Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor arrived at the headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to have her statement recorded in connection with a suspicious transfer of about $10.6 million (S$14.2 million) from the former 1MDB unit SRC International.
  • The sum is just a fraction of the billions of dollars allegedly siphoned from 1MDB, the state fund that Najib set up, in a scandal that dogged the last three years of his near-decade-long rule and was a key reason why he was voted out in a May 9 election.
  • M. Puravalen, a lawyer acting for Najib and Rosmah in connection with the SRC investigations, told Reuters on Tuesday he had "ceased acting" for Najib and Rosmah.
  • He said a second lawyer, Yusof Zainal Abideen, had also quit.
  • Puravalen, Abideen and other members of their legal team were reported to have walked out because they failed to reach common ground with Najib on several issues.
  • Najib has already made a series of statements to anti-graft investigators
  • but attention has shifted to his wife after police discovered hundreds of luxury handbags and a stash of jewelry and cash during raids on apartments linked to Najib and his family.
  • Malaysian police have seized 284 boxes filled with designer handbags, watches, jewellery and cash in various currencies from three luxury condominiums.
  • Comm Amar said the designer handbags were of various brands including Louis Vuitton and Birkin bags from Hermes.
  • He added that it was impossible for police to estimate the value of the items seized because there were just too many items and cash seized.
  • He also said that the apartment was not owned by Najib but a "Tan Sri".
  • Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director Comm Datuk Seri Amar Singh, who led the raids at Pavilion Residences here said this was part of its investigations into 1MDB.
  • This follows a police check of six locations linked to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak here and in Putrajaya, including the Prime Minister's Office, his official residence as well as four other residences.
  • When asked whether Najib would be arrested, he said: "There is no indication that they (the police) will do it."
  • He said Najib and his family were cooperative with police. "They (the police) also acted professionally," he said.

Mahathir said Rosmah was also being investigated in connection with 1MDB.

"Some of the money is believed to have gone to her, lots of money," Mahathir said. "We know about this, but finding the paper trail is a bit more difficult in this case because she doesn't sign any papers. Najib signs a lot of papers."

Mahathir said he expected Malaysia to make its first arrest in the 1MDB case within months and "hopefully" start a trial by the end of the year.

"We are working as hard as possible at a furious pace. We think that we already have almost a perfect case," Mahathir said.

Asked to name the targets of that case, he said, "Against Najib, against Jho Low and a few others."

Low is a Malaysian financier, who is also seen as a central figure in the 1MDB scandal. He is regarded as close to Najib and his family.

Low's lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment.

"When we go to the courts, we will have clear evidence of the wrongdoing. We cannot afford to lose," said Mahathir.

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