Wife of ex-Malaysian PM arrested

Rosmah Mansor, wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Putrajaya on 3 October, 2018. (Sadiq Asyraf / AFP Photo)

Rosmah Mansor, the flamboyant wife of Malaysia's former prime minister, was arrested Wednesday by the country's anti-graft agency over a multi-billion-dollar scandal that helped to bring down the last government.

Investigations into the alleged looting of state fund 1MDB by an audacious international fraud ring have already seen her husband Najib Razak hit with more than two dozen charges including corruption and money laundering.

He is out on bail following his spectacular fall from power in May elections, at the hands of a reformist alliance headed by Mahathir Mohamad.

"Rosmah has been arrested," her lawyer K. Kumaraendran told the media after she was questioned for hours at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on Wednesday.

The MACC in a statement said it arrested Rosmah, 66, in relation to money laundering investigations after getting approval from state prosecutors.

"Following this, Rosmah will face a number of charges," it said, adding she will be brought to court early on Thursday to be charged.

A MACC official said Rosmah could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted on each charge.

She is expected to spend the night at the MACC headquarters located in the administrative capital Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur.

Rosmah, widely reviled in Malaysia due to her profligate spending and imperious manner while her husband was in power, arrived at the MACC headquarters in a two-car convoy late Wednesday morning.

At the same time, her husband was also being questioned by police in a separate location in relation to the scandal.

Najib, 65, has denied any wrongdoing despite revelations that hundreds of millions of dollars ended up in his personal bank accounts.

Cash, jewellery and handbags

Rosmah, wearing a light green dress with matching headscarf, was met by her lawyers and escorted by anti-corruption officers into the agency's building.

She smiled as she walked past journalists but did not make any comment.

In Rosmah's last appearance a week ago, she was questioned for 13 hours.

Wednesday was the third occasion on which Rosmah had been questioned, but the first time she had been arrested, since her husband's coalition was dramatically ousted from office after six decades in power.

A central issue in the campaign was the allegation that Najib, his family and his cronies looted billions of dollars from 1MDB in a fraud ring that stretched from Singapore to Switzerland.

Rosmah's love of costly overseas shopping trips, designer handbags and jewellery made her a lightning rod for public anger, and fuelled suspicions that she benefited from the plundering of 1MDB.

After the election loss, a stash of cash, jewellery and hundreds of designer handbags worth as much as US$273 million was seized from properties linked to the couple in raids around Kuala Lumpur.

Rosmah is often compared to Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than a thousand pairs of shoes after her husband, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, was ousted in a popular uprising in 1986.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 93, who came back from retirement to challenge Najib, has launched a crackdown against corruption involving people in the previous government. - AFP