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Old news from The Guardian

July 27, 2018

“Former Malaysian PM Najib arrested in $4.5bn 1MDB probe”

* New judge to hear Najib’s CBT case
*
Najib’s presence casts a pall of gloom over Parliament  

The investigation focuses on how the money went missing from the state 1MDB fund

Sources said authorities picked up Najib Razak from his home on Tuesday and he was expected to be charged in court on Wednesday. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

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.

What is Malaysia’s 1MDB financial scandal?*

 

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

*Q&A
What is Malaysia’s 1MDB financial scandal?

Malaysia’s extraordinary 1MDB corruption scandal allegedly involved billions being stolen from the country’s sovereign wealth fund and spent on everything from Hollywood films to handbags.

Former prime minister Najib Razak was arrested in the 1MDB corruption inquiry set up by his successor, which has engulfed the ex-leader and his cronies since his shock loss at elections in May.

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is a state investment fund that  Najib launched in 2009 shortly after becoming prime minister.

Its portfolio has included power plants and other energy assets in Malaysia and the Middle East, and real estate in Kuala Lumpur.

The fund was closely overseen by Najib.

Whistle-blowers say Low Taek Jho, or “Jho Low”, a shadowy, jet-setting Malaysian financier close to Najib but who has no official positions, helped set up 1MDB and made key financial decisions.

After the scandal emerged, Najib purged 1MDB critics from his government, curbed domestic investigations, enacted a tough new security law and generally lurched to the right.

But the issue exploded in July 2015, when the Wall Street Journal published documents showing Najib received at least $681m (£518m) in payments to his personal bank accounts.

The US justice department has piled on the pressure by filing lawsuits to seize some $1.7bn in assets it said were purchased with stolen 1MDB money.

Najib’s dramatic election loss this year left him facing the possibility of prosecution and imprisonment.

The election winner, 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, has pledged to investigate the scandal and try to recover stolen funds from 1MDB that have been sent abroad.

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