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Ex-PM Najib arrested in graft probe

Ex-leader to face over 10 counts of committing criminal breach of trust

File photo: Najib Razak. — AFP

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3, (Agencies): Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was arrested by anti-corruption investigators Tuesday, officials said, the latest dramatic development in a widening graft probe that has engulfed the exleader.

Najib, 64, will be charged Wednesday, a taskforce set up to probe wrongdoing at state fund 1MDB said in a statement, adding he was apprehended “at his home”. The arrest is the latest in a series of stunning moves by investigators that suggest the legal noose is tightening around Najib, his family and many of his close political and business allies.

Malaysia’s official news agency Bernama said the former premier is expected to face more than 10 counts of committing criminal breach of trust linked to SRC International Sdn Bhd, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, $10.6 million originating from SRC was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts, just one small part of hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB that allegedly ended up in his accounts. Najib had been summoned twice by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over its investigation into a case related to SRC.

The newly appointed attorney general Tommy Thomas would lead the prosecution team, according to Bernama. Allegations of massive corruption were a major factor behind the shock election loss in May of Najib’s longruling coalition to a reformist alliance headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib and his cronies were accused of plundering billions of dollars from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund to buy everything from US real estate to artworks. Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing. Since the election loss Najib has been banned from leaving the country and has found himself at the centre of a widening graft probe. Shortly after his ouster, a vast trove of valuables was seized in raids on properties linked to Najib and his family, including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags, worth up to $273 million.

He and his luxury-loving wife Rosmah Mansor were questioned by investigators, as were his stepson Riza Aziz, whose firm produced the hit 2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and his former deputy Zahid Hamidi. A special government task force investigating the 1MDB corruption scandal said it froze 408 bank accounts containing a total 1.1 billion ringgit ($272 million) last week. Local media reports said some of the accounts belonged to Najib’s political party, the once-powerful United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Until their shock defeat in May, Najib’s party and its coalition allies had run Malaysia for six decades.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s former central bank head on Tuesday denied she was aware of a large sum deposited in ex-prime minister Najib Razak’s account in 2013, adding that he later asked her to issue a statement saying “he had done nothing wrong”. Zeti Akhtar Aziz was responding to a Najib interview published on Monday in which he said the central bank was aware of the 2.6 billion ringgit ($643.41 million) placed in his account before the 2013 general election and did nothing

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