KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian police conducted searches through the night and into the Thursday morning at five places linked to ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak, including the family home where he stays, a senior police officer said.
A lawyer for Najib, who was ousted from office in last week’s general election, said police seized handbags and a few other personal items from Najib’s home in connection with a money laundering probe.
A multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Najib, is being investigated by police in at least six countries, including the United States. Najib denies any wrongdoing.
Amar Singh, the director of police commercial crime investigations, told Reuters that five places linked to Najib were being searched, including the family home in an upmarket Kuala Lumpur district.
Singh gave no other details, but the Star newspaper said searches were also conducted at the prime minister’s office, the official residence and two places linked to Najib’s family in a luxury Kuala Lumpur condominium.
The search at the family home was continuing at 0200 GMT, nearly 12 hours after a dozen armed policemen first entered the premises. The police started the search after Najib returned home from prayers at a mosque to mark the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“The search is supposed to be under the money laundering act … they found nothing incriminating,” Najib’s lawyer Harpal Singh Grewal told reporters who were camped outside the house.
He said police took away some personal possessions including a couple of handbags. “Nothing serious. About two, three boxes” of them, Grewal said.
When asked whether Najib would be arrested, he said: “There is no indication that they (the police) will do it.”
He said Najib and his family were cooperative with police. “They (the police) also acted professionally,” he said.
Najib’s long-ruling political coalition was defeated in a May 9 general election and just days later, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad barred Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country. Najib was once Mahathir’s protégé.
Mahathir, 92, has said there is sufficient evidence to investigate the scandal at 1MDB.
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.
On Wednesday, jailed reformist Anwar Ibrahim was granted a full pardon and freed, underlining the dramatic political 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.
Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Michael Perry