Malaysian police seize items from ex-premier Najib, report says

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak attends a press conference to announce his resignation as president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main component party of the defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, in Kuala Lumpur on May 12, 2018. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Malaysian police seized personal items from former prime minister Najib Razak’s house in a six-hour overnight search, the New Straits Times reported, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s week-old government seeks evidence into wrongdoing at state fund 1MDB.

Authorities took handbags, clothes and gifts as evidence but not any documents, the newspaper said, citing Najib Razak’s lawyer Harpal Singh Grewal. He said the search occurred under the Anti-Money Laundering Act but didn’t specify what the police investigation involved, the report said.

“There is no arrest today,” the newspaper quoted Grewal as saying, adding that Najib Razak and his family cooperated with the authorities. “We can say that they (police) did not find any evidence.”

Najib Razak’s shock election loss last week saw the Barisan Nasional coalition evicted from power after six decades, and he was subsequently barred from leaving the country. It comes as Mahathir Mohamad accelerates efforts to revive a probe into 1MDB, which was set up in 2009 under Najib Razak’s watch to support domestic infrastructure projects.

The premier said Wednesday he will seek to recover funds diverted from 1MDB by reaching out to authorities in Switzerland, the United States (US), Singapore and other jurisdictions. A parliamentary committee in 2016 identified at least US$4.2 billion in irregular transactions by the fund.

“The main issue is of corruption, particularly 1MDB as well as the money that was embezzled by the previous government,” Mahathir Mohamad told reporters on Wednesday.

“I have been briefed by the police and the auditor general and it is very clear that there were more wrongdoings committed than what was known by the public and me.”

Mahathir Mohamad, who was Najib Razak’s long-term ally and who is back in power after a prior stint as premier from 1981 to 2003, accused him on the campaign trail of being a “thief” over alleged graft at 1MDB. Najib Razak has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by the attorney general at the time, while the fund has repeatedly denied any misconduct.

The 1MDB scandal spawned global probes as investigators tracked a money trail stretching from Switzerland to Singapore and the US. The Department of Justice alleges that US$3.5 billion from the fund went missing.

Swiss prosecutors said Tuesday they wanted to start talks with investigators in Malaysia as soon as possible to better coordinate various criminal probes into the sprawling case.

Singapore authorities also weighed in. The city-state has cooperated extensively with their Malaysian counterparts on past requests on the matter and is ready to extend further assistance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department said in an email early Wednesday. - Bloomberg