The investigation focuses on how the money went missing from the state 1MDB fund
By Hannah Ellis-Petersen
Najib Razak, the former Malaysian prime minister, has been arrested for his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal, in which billions were embezzled from a government fund.
Najib, who was toppled from power in May, was arrested in his Kuala Lumpur home on Tuesday afternoon and will be charged in court in the Malaysian capital on Wednesday morning, according to a statement from the team investigating 1MDB.
The former prime minster was picked up from his property using three unmarked cars and taken to the Malaysian anti-corruption agency (MACC) headquarters in Putrajaya where he will be held overnight.
His arrest came after the newly elected government, led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, reopened the investigation into 1MDB the moment it came into power in May and pledged to bring to justice all of those responsible for the multibillion dollar fraud.
Mahathir said last week that authorities had an almost “perfect case” against Najib on charges including bribery, theft of government funds and embezzlement.
Najib is expected to be charged with multiple counts of abuse of power and criminal breach of trust by a public servant, which is punishable by whipping and a maximum twenty year jail term. It is thought he will also be charged with using public office for gratification, which again carries a jail term of up to twenty years. The prosecution will be led by the newly appointed Attorney General Tommy Thomas.
The 1MDB scandal, described as the biggest corruption scandal in Malaysian history, involved billions of dollars being embezzled from a government fund and fraudulently spent around the world. $681m (£516m) of 1MDB money went into Najib’s personal bank account, where it is alleged it was used to fund the lavish spending habits of Najib and his wife.
In the US, the Department of Justice is seeking to seize $1.7bn in real estate, art works, yachts, and luxury goods allegedly bought with misappropriated 1MDB money.
Najib was cleared of all wrongdoing when he was prime minister but the investigation was widely viewed as a cover-up. He has always denied responsibility, and reiterated his innocence in a interview last week, saying: “If I knew there was going to be misappropriation of funds, if that was my knowledge, I would have acted.”
According to figures in the finance ministry, 1MDB’s losses total $10bn.
Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz was also questioned by MACC on Tuesday over allegedly misappropriating 1MDB money to fund the Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street.
Aziz, who owns a film production company, denies any wrongdoing but in March it was revealed that his company agreed to pay the US government $60m to settle a civil lawsuit that sought to seize assets purchased with money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have given statements to the MACC over 1MDB. As part of the investigation the police carried out raids on their homes, in which jewellery, handbags and watches worth up to $273m, and $29m in cash were seized. The couple maintain the luxury goods were gifts and that the cash was election funds.
This article (Former Malaysian PM Najib arrested in $4.5bn 1MDB probe) was originally published on The Guardian and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.