May 18, 2018 / 12:34 PM / 5 months ago

Ex-Malaysia PM to face graft probe as police seize jewellery, handbags

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Ousted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been summoned by the anti-graft agency amid a probe into troubled state fund 1MDB, sources said on Friday, after police launched pre-dawn raids on premises linked to Najib and confiscated jewellery, luxury handbags and cash.

A Malaysian police officer pushes a trolley during a raid of three apartments in a condominum owned by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's family, in Kuala Lumpur. Ariffin Jamar/The Straits Times via REUTERS

Police have been searching Najib’s home and other places as part of an investigation into scandal-plagued 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), an extraordinary turn of events that few would have predicted before his shock defeat in the May 9 general election.

The embattled former premier is to meet Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers on Tuesday.

Three commission sources confirmed that a notice had been served on Najib to give his statement in relation to their probe on SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.

“It has been done,” one source said when asked if the notice had been delivered to Najib at his family home.

A member of a panel that reviewed the MACC’s files on 1MDB found that the commission had evidence that Najib received $10.5 million from SRC International.

Najib’s lawyer declined to comment on the MACC summons. Najib has denied wrongdoing.

Malaysian police load a trolley onto a truck during a raid of three apartments in a condominum owned by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak’s family, in Kuala Lumpur, May 17, 2018, in this photo taken by The Straits Times. Ariffin Jamar/The Straits Times via REUTERS

The investigations started barely a week after Najib’s ruling coalition suffered a spectacular loss to an opposition bloc led by his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, 92, the first change of government since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.

Mahathir on Friday announced his cabinet of 15 senior ministers who will take their oath of office on Monday.

Police seized 284 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewellery in the raid on a luxury condominium in the centre of Kuala Lumpur linked to Najib.

Items such as Birkin handbags from Hermes, watches and other valuables were carted out of the condominium at the upmarket Pavilion Residences, police said.

“Exactly how much jewellery, I would not be able to say, because we know that we confiscated bags containing jewellery and the number of jewellery is rather big,” Amar Singh, director of police commercial crime investigations, told reporters.

Mahathir has barred Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.

Mahathir says there is sufficient evidence to investigate the multi-billion-dollar scandal at the 1MDB fund that Najib founded. Authorities in six countries, including the United States, are also investigating the fund.

Najib’s lawyer on Thursday denounced the search of Najib’s home as “harassment”.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak attends the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) 72th anniversary celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Critics of Najib have often accused his wife of lavish spending, which they say was done with public funds.

SIMULTANEOUS SEARCHES

The U.S. Justice Department said last year in a filing in a civil lawsuit that nearly $30 million of funds stolen from 1MDB was used to buy jewellery for Rosmah, including a rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace.

Singh said police carried out simultaneous searches at six premises - the prime minister’s office and official residence in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, the family mansion in Kuala Lumpur where Najib lives, and three other private residences.

“This is the result of the search in one of the six premises,” Singh said, pointing to the hundreds of luxury items seized from the condominium.

Singh said police had also seized documents linked to 1MDB.

Stories of lavish spending by Najib’s family have long been a sore point for Malaysians.

A prime minister earns a fixed salary of 22,826.65 ringgit ($5,750) a month and cannot invest in businesses or stocks while in office. Najib earned an additional monthly salary of 16,000 ringgit as a member of parliament.

Police began their searches late on Wednesday, with officers seen entering Najib’s private home some 20 minutes after he had asked, in a post on Twitter, for “forgiveness for past sins”.

($1 = 3.9755 ringgit)

Additional reporting Ebrahim Harris and Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Nick Macfie

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