Former Malay PM resigns as party chief, barred from leaving country

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Kuala Lumpur, May 12 (IANS) Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was defeated in the general elections, resigned as head of his United Malays National Organisation and the Barisan Nasional coalition after his successor Mahathir Mohamad barred him from leaving the country on Saturday over a massive embezzlement case and diversion of state funds.

“I am stepping down as President of UMNO and chairman of BN coalition with immediate effect,” Najib told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the resignation was to take up the responsibility for the defeat in the Wednesday’s general elections held earlier this week, the BBC reported.

Najib said in a statement earlier in the day that he was leaving the country with his wife Rosmah Mansor “to take a break”. However, it was soon followed by a tweet saying that he had been informed that the Immigration Department doesn’t allow him to leave the country.

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“I respect this instruction and will stay in the country with my family,” he said. He, according to reports, intended to fly to Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Mahathir, 92-year-old new Prime Minister said that he had instructed the travel ban for Najib and his wife. “There are a lot of complaints against him (Najib), all of which have to be investigated,” he told a press conference.

“If we found some of the complaints are valid, we have to act quickly because we don’t want to settle with the problem of extradition from other countries.”

Mahathir also announced that he had dismissed the prosecutor, Mohamed Andin Ali, who in 2016 exonerated Najib in the investigation into the diversion of money from the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

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He said that he would study the investigation report and that his priority would be to recover the diverted money.

In 2015, Najib was implicated in the 1MDB scandal for diverting around $681 million to his private accounts from the 1MDB, which he had created and presided over.

He claimed that the money was a donation from the Saudi Arabian royal family and the Malaysian prosecutor’s office had then exonerated him of any suspicion.

However, the alleged embezzlement and laundering of funds diverted from the 1MDB are being investigated in half a dozen countries, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.

The US Department of Justice estimated that the amount diverted from 1MDB was $4.5 billion, of which some $1 billion may have been laundered in the US through the purchase of real estate, yachts, jewellery and works of art.

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Part of the diverted money was allegedly used to fund Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street ” and purchase a 22-carat pink diamond pendant allegedly for Najib’s wife for $27.3 million.

Mahathir, former head of the government between 1981 and 2003, decided to return to the political arena after Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal and allied with the opposition to win the elections.

His victory put an end to the nearly 61-year rule of Najib’s BN coalition, which had been in power since Malaysia’s independence in 1957.

–IANS

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