Malaysian authorities arrested the wife of former leader Najib Razak on Wednesday and officials said she will face money-laundering charges in court in connection with the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.
Rosmah Mansor, 66, was taken into custody after giving her statement at the headquarters of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), where she will spend the night under detention before being charged in court on Thursday, the agency’s deputy commissioner, Azam Baki, told BenarNews.
“Rosmah will face several charges,” MACC said in a statement after her arrest that came following her third round of questioning at the anti-graft agency.
MACC has been probing allegations that more than $4.5 billion were misappropriated and laundered from the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Last month, investigators questioned Rosmah for almost 13 hours.
Her lawyer, K. Kumaraendran, told reporters he did not know how many charges would be presented against Rosmah.
“We were not informed on all the charges, so we are not able to tell you,” he said. “We are also not sure where she is being detained.”
Rosmah’s arrest occurred after investigators questioned her husband, Najib, for more than three hours Wednesday at the anti-money laundering division of the federal police in Kuala Lumpur.
Najib evaded a group of journalists awaiting his arrival by taking an alternate entrance. Police did not issue a statement and authorities did not disclose details.
The government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad intensified its 1MDB probe starting in mid-May after the Barisan Nasional coalition led by Najib was swept from power in the May 9 general election.
MACC had earlier questioned Najib about how 2.6 billion ringgit (U.S. $642.6 million) and 42 million ringgit ($10 million) from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB, had ended up in his personal bank accounts.
Najib, who is free on nearly $850,000 in bail, has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the funds were donated by the Saudi royal family. SRC was under the finance ministry’s control in 2012 when Najib served as its minister.
Najib faces a total of 32 charges related to the 1MDB corruption probe. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for the abuse of power counts and up to 15 years for the money laundering charges, lawyers said.
Najib founded 1MDB as a sovereign investment fund ostensibly to pursue projects beneficial to Malaysians. But, according to court documents filed by U.S. authorities, the fund was used between 2009 and 2014 to satiate the ostentatious lifestyle of people with power over it.
The U.S. DOJ said in court documents that jewelry for Rosmah was purchased with 1MDB funds that passed through Najib’s bank account. A diamond necklace set alone cost $27.3 million and was bought in 2013, just months after $680 million was transferred to Najib’s private bank account in Kuala Lumpur, according to court filings in July last year.
On June 27, police raided a former office and residences linked to Najib and removed 567 designer handbags, hundreds of luxury watches and dozens of suitcases containing cash and 12,000 pieces of jewelry. Authorities said the seized items were valued at $273 million.
On Wednesday, Rosmah’s daughter, Nooryana Najwa, condemned the anti-graft agency’s move.
“I can accept taking action on a man who was in power but putting the women in his life in harm’s way is going too far,” she posted on Instagram, referring to the arrest of her mother.