Lawyer: Malaysia police seize items from ex-premier Najib

An entrance road to the resident of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is cordoned off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, May 17, 2018. Malaysian police spent hours early Thursday searching former Prime Minister Najib Razak's house, reportedly part of a money-laundering investigation linked to a state investment fund that is being investigated abroad. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)

Malaysian police seized personal items from former leader Najib Razak’s house in an overnight search, his lawyer said, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s week-old government seeks evidence into wrongdoing at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Authorities took several boxes of “negligible” items like handbags, clothes and personal belongings as evidence but not any documents, Harpal Singh Grewal, Najib’s lawyer, said by phone.

Police mentioned possible money-laundering offenses but didn’t mention 1MDB, he said.

“They searched the whole house, possibly looking for documents and things like that, but there was nothing there, to be honest,” Grewal said. He added the police took items “to show they did something.”

Grewal said there’s “no indication at all” that Najib would be arrested. “We just wait and see,” he added.

Najib’s shock election loss last week to Mahathir saw the Barisan Nasional coalition evicted from power after six decades, and he was subsequently barred from leaving the country.

It comes as Mahathir accelerates efforts to revive a probe into 1MDB, which was set up in 2009 under Najib’s watch to support domestic infrastructure projects.

The premier said on Wednesday he will seek to recover funds diverted from 1MDB by reaching out to authorities in Switzerland, the United States, Singapore and other jurisdictions. A parliamentary committee in 2016 identified at least $4.2 billion in irregular transactions by the fund.

“The main issue is of corruption, particularly 1MDB, as well as the money that was embezzled by the previous government,” Mahathir told reporters on Wednesday. “I have been briefed by the police and the auditor general and it is very clear that there were more wrongdoings committed than what was known by the public and me.”

Mahathir, who was Najib’s long-term ally and who is back in power after a prior stint as premier from 1981 to 2003, accused him on the campaign trail of being a “thief” over alleged graft at 1MDB.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by the attorney general at the time, while the fund has repeatedly denied any misconduct.

The 1MDB scandal spawned global probes as investigators tracked a money trail stretching from Switzerland to Singapore and the US. The Department of Justice alleges that $3.5 billion from the fund went missing.

Swiss prosecutors said on Tuesday they wanted to start talks with investigators in Malaysia as soon as possible to better coordinate various criminal probes into the sprawling case.

Singapore authorities also weighed in. The city-state has cooperated extensively with their Malaysian counterparts on past requests on the matter and is ready to extend further assistance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department said in an e-mail early on Wednesday.

Suntrust banner2
Turning Points 2018