Malaysia's anti-corruption agency has moved to freeze the bank accounts of the political party until recently led by Najib Razak. The net is tightening around Najib as a money laundering probe homes in on the ex-PM.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said on Friday it had frozen the bank accounts of the opposition United Malays National Organization (UMNO) as part of a money laundering probe into the 1Malaysia Development fund, more commonly known as 1MDB.
"The 1MDB taskforce confirms it has frozen a number of accounts owned by individuals and organizations, including UMNO and other political parties believed to be involved in the misappropriation of 1MDB funds," the task force said in a statement. According to local media, the commission informed Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, acting leader of the UNMO party, of the move on Thursday.
New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reopened a probe into Najib and some of his associates at 1MDB after his four-party alliance against the Barisan Nasional coalition won the May 8 elections.
Najib's personal riches
Over $4.5 billion (€3.9 billion) was allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB and just under $700 million of that was allegedly diverted into Najib's personal bank accounts. Najib, who since losing the election in May has stepped down as the party chief and is barred from leaving Malaysia, said last week that the $700 million was a donation from Saudi Arabia.
Police said about $275 million worth of jewelry, handbags, watches and other items were found at premises linked to Najib and his family, with $29 million also found in cash. They said it was the biggest seizure in Malaysian history.
Malaysia will bring several charges against Najib, including embezzlement and bribery, Mahathir said. "I think he will be brought to the court soon," Mahathir was quoted saying on an official visit to Jakarta on Thursday.
The new prime minister added that investigators must ensure they collect "strong evidence" on the involvement of Najib, his wife and businessman Jho Low in the scandal.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has said Najib's former party was not the only one to have received 1MDB funds, adding on Friday that the government planned to sell much of the stash. Lim told the Associated Press that the government will "try to monetize whatever we can."
jbh/msh (Reuters, AP)