Kuala Lumpur, July 3 (IANS) Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested on Tuesday by anti-corruption authorities for his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal, described as the “biggest one in Malaysian history”, involving billions of dollars being embezzled from a government fund and fraudulently spent around the world.
Najib, who has long been plagued by allegations of corruption, has been accused of pocketing $700 million from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, set up by him in 2009. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for from the fund, authorities say.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said that Najib, toppled from power in May, was arrested from his home in afternoon and will be charged at the Kuala Lumpur court on Wednesday, Malaysian state media Bernama reported.
His arrest came after the newly-elected government, led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, reopened the investigation into 1MDB after coming to power in May and pledged to bring to justice all of those responsible for the multi-billion dollar fraud.
Najib denies wrongdoing 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.”
Mahathir said last week that authorities had an almost “perfect case” against the former Prime Minister on charges including bribery, theft of government funds and embezzlement, according to a report in the Guardian.
Najib was cleared of all wrongdoing when he was the Prime Minister but the investigation was widely viewed as a cover-up. According to figures in the Finance Ministry, 1MDB’s losses totalled $10 billion.
Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz was also questioned by MACC 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 $60 million 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. Last week, police said they had seized jewellery, handbags and watches worth up to $273 million and $29 million in cash from six properties linked to the former leader. He has been banned from leaving Malaysia.
The couple maintain the luxury goods were gifts and that the cash was election funds.