May 16, 2018 / 3:58 PM / 11 days ago

Malaysia police seize handbags, other personal items from ex-PM's home

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian police seized handbags and few other personal items from the home of former prime minister Najib Razak in connection with a money laundering probe, a lawyer of the ex-leader said on Thursday.

Police arrive outside former prime minister Najib Razak's residence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

At least a dozen armed policemen entered Najib’s home late on Wednesday after he returned from prayers at a mosque, Reuters witnesses said.

The search lasted for over six hours during which officers were seen taking large bags into the house and later loading them into a truck.

“The search is supposed to be under money laundering act ... they found nothing incriminating,” Najib’s lawyer Harpal Singh Grewal told reporters who were camped outside the house.

He said the police took some personal possessions including a couple of handbags.

“Nothing serious. About two, three boxes” of them, Harpal said.

When asked whether Najib would be arrested, he said: “There is no indication that they (the police) will do it.”

Several dozen policemen were also seen at a luxury condominium in another district of Kuala Lumpur, where Najib has an apartment.

A police spokeswoman could not be contacted for comment.

Najib’s long-ruling political coalition was defeated in a general election last week. Just days later, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad barred Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.

Mahathir, 92, has said there is sufficient evidence to investigate a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Najib.

Once Mahathir’s protégé, Najib denied any wrongdoing.

Police arrive at former prime minister Najib Razak's residence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

1MDB INVESTIGATED

The scandal is being investigated by police in at least six countries, including the United States.

Mahathir has replaced the country’s attorney-general and officials at the anti-graft agency, in what appears to be a purge of people seen as close to the former premier.

Earlier on Wednesday, jailed reformist Anwar Ibrahim was granted a full pardon and freed, underlining the dramatic changes in the Southeast Asian country in the last seven days.

Anwar teamed up with Mahathir, his ally-turned-foe-turned-ally, to oust Najib. The relationship between the two remains volatile, however, and will likely determine what course Malaysia will chart in the coming months.

Anwar, 70, said he would like to take time off with his family and did not intend to join the cabinet anytime soon. He said he would support the government led by Mahathir and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife.

“I’ve told Tun Mahathir, I don’t need to serve in the cabinet for now,” Anwar said, using an honorific for the prime minister.

Police arrive at former prime minister Najib Razak's residence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

FORGIVEN

Anwar was Mahathir’s deputy in the 1990s, but fell out with his mentor during the 1997-99 Asian financial crisis.

He was eventually sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi (Reform) movement, challenging Mahathir’s government. Within weeks, he was arrested and jailed on disputed charges of sodomy and corruption.

Images at the time of a goateed, bespectacled Anwar in court with a black eye and bruises brought condemnation of Mahathir from around the world.

Anwar’s trial became a spectacle, with prosecutors at one stage bringing out what they said was a semen-stained mattress allegedly used when he had sex with two male aides.

After being freed in 2004, Anwar was jailed a second time for sodomy in 2015, when Najib was in power.

Both times, he and his supporters said the charges were politically motivated.

Anwar told a news conference at his home on Wednesday that he had forgiven Mahathir, who was a pugnacious and uncompromising prime minister for 22 years from 1981.

“I and Mahathir have buried the hatchet already, it was a long time ago,” Anwar said. “I have forgiven him, he has proved his mettle. Why should I harbour any malice towards him?”

The pardon, which enables Anwar to re-enter politics immediately, was granted on the grounds that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

Mahathir had promised during the election campaign that he would step down and let Anwar be prime minister if he won the poll, but said this week he planned to stay in the post for one or two years.

Writing by Praveen Menon; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, John Chalmers and G Crosse

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