Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been arrested in Kuala Lumpur as part of a probe into alleged theft and money laundering at the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state investment fund.
According to Malaysian official Bernama news agency, “Najib was arrested at his residence in Jalan Langgak Dutta at 2.35 pm over the investigation into SRC International and would be charged at 8.30 am tomorrow”.
Najib’s family lawyer told Channel News Asia on Tuesday that the former leader would be charged for his role in the 1MDB scandal the next day. New Attorney General Tommy Thomas himself would lead the prosecution team.
Earlier on Tuesday, Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency questioned Riza Aziz, the stepson of Najib and a Hollywood film producer. He was solemn as he arrived at the anti-corruption office and did not speak to reporters.
US investigators say Riza’s company, Red Granite Pictures Inc, used money stolen from 1MDB to finance Hollywood films including the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street.
Alleged corruption at the 1MDB fund brought Najib’s coalition government down in the May 9 polls. The new government reopened investigations that were stifled while Najib was in power.
A foreign journalist based in Kuala Lumpur said that Najib’s arrest is a “major development, but something that we had been expecting”.
The state-owned 1MBD company was set up in 2009 soon after Najib became prime minister for the purpose of development investment to aid the country’s economy.
Allegations over the misappropriation of state funds at 1MBD emerged in 2015 as the public learned that $4bn had gone missing from the fund, and nearly $700m was allegedly transferred into Najib’s bank account.
The US Department of State filed a case in 2016, seeking to seize more than $1bn in assets linked to the fund. Najib denied any wrongdoing and said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family.
After assuming power, Malaysia’s new government – a coalition of opposition parties headed by 93-year old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – set up a special task force to look into the possible criminal conduct of individuals involved in the management of 1MBD.
After Najib’s arrest, analysts said it is now just a matter of time until the true extent of the scandal will be revealed and more former officials associated with Najib’s government will likely face prosecution.