Updated at 9:15 a.m. ET on 2018-05-19
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak is to appear Tuesday before Malaysia’s anti-graft commission as investigators reopen a probe into how nearly U.S. $700 million of 1MDB state-fund money ended up in his bank accounts in 2013, agency sources confirmed Friday.
A source said Najib was to appear before the investigators on Tuesday morning at the headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Putrajaya.
“So far he is the only one called in for questioning,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to speak to the media, told BenarNews.
In 2015, MACC launched a probe into SRC International, a subsidiary of indebted state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad following the discovery that hundreds of millions of dollars linked to 1MDB had been deposited into two of Najib’s personal bank accounts. He has claimed the money was a gift from a Saudi royal.
The investigation ceased on Dec. 31, 2015, as then-Attorney General Apandi Ali declared his department had found that Najib committed no criminal offense.
Najib has been the subject of a police searches at his residences and former office since Wednesday night, when he was served with a warrant. Early Friday, investigators said they had seized 72 suitcases that held cash, jewelry, watches and other valuables from an apartment unit in an affluent neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur. They said they also confiscated 284 boxes containing luxury handbags.
The raid at a Pavilion Residences condominium building was one of six simultaneous raids, which police said were linked to a 1MDB investigation. The police said they searched four current residences linked to Najib, as well as his former official Prime Minister’s Office and former official residence as PM.
On May 9, Najib’s Barisan Nasional coalition lost the general election, after which he was replaced as prime minister by Mahathir Mohamad the next day.
Najib’s lawyer, Harpal Singh Grewal, acknowledged that he had heard about the notice to appear before the anti-graft agency but declined to elaborate.
“I was not there when the document was delivered so I cannot say anything about it,” Grewal told BenarNews, telling a reporter to contact the MACC as “they will know more.”
On Monday, Dzulkifli Ahmad, a Najib-appointed MACC chief commissioner, resigned from the post he held since Aug. 1, 2016.
Dzulkifli had replaced Abu Kassim Mohamed who was transferred to a minor position at a local university. Abdul Razak Idris, former MACC director of intelligence and investigations, told BenarNews that Abu Kassim’s transfer was a retribution for his investigation into 1MDB.
Also on Monday, Abdul Razak went to the Kuala Lumpur MACC office to lodge a report against Najib on a charge that could carry a jail term of up to 20 years.
Jho Low whereabouts
In other developments on Friday related to the 1MDB affair, former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin said he had a rough idea “where Jho Low is,” referring to Low Taek Jho, an adviser for 1MDB and close friend to Najib who has been described as being the mastermind behind the financial scandal.
Daim called Jho Low, who has denied any role in 1MDB, the best witness in the scandal and urged the 36-year-old businessman to return to Malaysia and testify.
“I hope since he claims he is innocent, he would come back and assist us,” Daim said.
He also called for the authorities investigating the case to observe the rule of law, especially with regard to the individual rights of persons of interest.
“People must be treated with dignity. It doesn’t matter, there must be equal treatment for everybody,” Daim said.
Reminding investigators that Najib is a former prime minister, Daim asked police to “give him due respect.
“Nobody is stopping police from doing investigations, but not at 3 a.m.,” he said.
Police began searching Najib-linked properties and his old office as prime minister Wednesday night and continued into Friday.
On Thursday, after investigators had been in the former prime minister’s private home for hours and safe crackers were drilling open a first-floor safe, his lawyer complained that police were harassing Najib and his family.
“The family is very stressed and tired with the noise and the long duration of the whole thing,” Grewal told BenarNews.
Najib’s successor responded, saying the searches were conducted at the discretion of the Royal Malaysia Police.
During the electoral campaign, Mahathir, 92, vowed to recover billions of dollars allegedly stolen from 1MDB and to prosecute any officials complicit in the scandal.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice is trying to recover more than $1.7 billion in real-estate and other assets allegedly siphoned off through complex transactions from 1MDB. Najib formed the investment fund in 2009 ostensibly to pursue projects that would benefit citizens through development projects.
CORRECTION: An earlier version erroneously reported that 284 designer handbags were seized as part of the police searches in Najib-linked residences.