KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Najib Razak, the previous prime minister of Malaysia who was ousted in an election two months in the past, was arrested by anticorruption officers on Tuesday, amid an investigation involving billions of diverted from a state funding fund.
Atop a political machine that had ruled Malaysia since its independence in 1957, Mr. Najib and his allies used political affect, money handouts and information media repression to attempt to hold corruption accusations at bay for years.
But in May, voter anger over the scandal on the funding fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, led to a sweeping victory for a sprawling opposition movement that got here collectively to oust Mr. Najib.
His successor as prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, campaigned on bringing Mr. Najib to justice, and after his inauguration, officers moved to block Mr. Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.
American prosecutors have accused Mr. Najib, 64, of diverting into his private checking account $731 million from the state funding fund, which he supervised for years. Money siphoned from the fund, generally known as 1MDB, was then spent on luxurious items, comparable to a $27.three million pink diamond necklace that was worn by Mr. Najib’s spouse, American investigators stated.
The United States Justice Department stated that a minimum of $four.5 billion from 1MDB was laundered by means of American monetary establishments and misspent by Mr. Najib, his household and associates.
A spokesman for Mr. Najib known as the arrest “politically motivated and the result of political vengeance” by Mr. Mahathir and the opposition that now governs Malaysia.
Mr. Najib has denied any wrongdoing.
He shall be spending the evening in lockup on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Putrajaya, the nation’s administrative capital, officers stated.
He is predicted to look in courtroom on Wednesday morning and be charged with greater than 10 counts of felony breach of belief, in response to Bernama, the state information company.
In an announcement, a Malaysian authorities activity power probing the 1MDB affair stated that Mr. Najib had been arrested in reference to SRC International, a onetime subsidiary of 1MDB. In late May, Mr. Najib was questioned for 5 hours on how tens of thousands and thousands of from SRC International appeared to have ended up in his personal checking account.
The Malaysian police stated final week that they’d seized cash, jewelry, purses and other valuables worth as much as $273 million from properties of Mr. Najib and Ms. Rosmah. The catalog of seized jewellery included 567 purses, 2,200 rings and 14 tiaras.
Mr. Mahathir, who was inaugurated as prime minister in May, described Mr. Najib, his former protégé, as a “kleptocrat” in an interview with The New York Times.
“It is obvious that he has stolen money,” Mr. Mahathir stated. “We have enough evidence. It’s not a question of seeking revenge, no. It is just the application of the rule of law.”
Mr. Najib is the son of 1 Malaysian prime minister and the nephew of one other. With his gilded upbringing, among the many elite of the United Malays National Organization, Malaysia’s longtime governing celebration, he appeared destined for management.
But even earlier than he turned prime minister in 2009, scandal dogged him.
The Mongolian mistress of considered one of his aides was killed in 2006, and two of Mr. Najib’s bodyguards had been convicted of her homicide. Mr. Najib has additionally been investigated by French officers in connection to $130 million in kickbacks on a deal to buy French submarines.
The 1MDB scandal surfaced in 2015, and American prosecutors say that cash diverted from the fund was spent on staggering acquisitions, comparable to a $250 million yacht owned by a pal of Mr. Najib’s stepson.
Malaysian investigators are additionally trying into whether or not cash from 1MDB was used to fund Mr. Najib’s re-election marketing campaign.
Mr. Mahathir stated that in a non-public dialog in 2015, Mr. Najib advised him that “cash is king,” a reference to cash politics in Malaysia.
“When he said that cash is king,” Mr. Mahathir stated of Mr. Najib, “what he was saying is that corruption is O.K.”
Hannah Beech reported from Kuala Lumpur, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong. Sharon Tan contributed reporting from Kuala Lumpur.