Malaysia: Najib Razak to face anti-graft investigators as pressure mounts

Former PM is under fire over alleged looting of state funds as police raids on his home force his wife to issue a statement denouncing media coverage

Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak has been asked to make a statement on Tuesday to anti-corruption investigators as he comes under renewed pressure about claims that he looted state funds when in power.

As his wife was forced to make a statement through her lawyers about reports of her extravagant lifestyle, Najib also faces the possible reopening of a years-long scandal involving, kickbacks, a murdered Mongolian model and his one-time close associate.

Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor. Photograph: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday, Mongolia’s president asked Malaysia’s new leader, Mahathir Mohamad, to find justice for the dead woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, while a fugitive policeman convicted of the crime said he would cooperate with any new investigation if he was given a full pardon.

Mahathir has already barred Najib from leaving the country after surprisingly defeating his one-time protege in an election on 9 May.

The new government is seeking answers to how billions of dollars disappeared from the 1MDB state fund that Najib founded, and the Malaysian anti-corruption commission has asked the former prime minister, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, to make a statement at its headquarters next Tuesday.

On Friday, Malaysian police seized 284 boxes of designer handbags, and 72 bags of cash, jewellery and watches belonging to Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, as part of the 1MDB investigation.

Najib’s lawyer, Harpal Singh Grewal, told reporters waiting outside the house that the former prime minister and his family were “really very unhappy” that police had confiscated clothes and shoes belonging to his children.

“No attempt was made to verify whether these dresses, shoes, baby clothes and all had anything to do with the investigations which are ongoing,” he said.

Malaysian police seize a few hundred designer handbags and dozens of suitcases containing cash, jewellery and other valuables belonging to former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor. Photograph: AP

Rosmah, through her law firm, issued a statement on Saturday to address “the recent spate of events leading to the media hailstorm” and asked authorities to follow the rule of law and due process to avoid a premature public trial.

She said the inquiry process seemed to have been compromised due to leaks, including “details of the alleged items confiscated”. Her law firm and aides did not respond to further queries from Reuters.

However, the potential reopening of an investigation into the murder 12 years ago of the Mongolian model could put Najib into even greater trouble.

The affair centred on allegations that Malaysian officials took huge kickbacks in the 2002 purchase of Scorpene submarines from France when Najib was defence minister.

French submarine maker DCNS is alleged to have paid more than €114m ($134m) in kickbacks to a shell company linked to Abdul Razak Baginda, a close Najib associate who brokered the $1.1bn submarine deal.

Altantuya was Abdul Razak’s mistress and was said to have demanded a cut for translating during negotiations. She was shot dead and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur in 2006.

Two policemen from Najib’s security detail were convicted, and have death sentences hanging over them, but the question of who ordered them to kill the 28-year-old Altantuya has never been answered.

The case sank off the radar after a Malaysian court in 2008 cleared Abdul Razak of abetting the murder, sparking allegations of a huge cover-up.

But the election result changes the equation.

One of the convicted policemen, Sirul Azhar Umar – who fled to Australia in 2015 and is in an Australian immigration detention centre – told a Malaysian news website on Saturday he was ready to reveal who ordered the murder so long as he walked free.

“I am willing to assist the new government to tell what actually transpired, provided that the government grants me [a] full pardon,” Sirul told Malaysiakini.

Sirul has maintained that he and his accomplice were scapegoats for “important people”, but with family still in Malaysia, he has so far held back revealing what happened.

Sirul Azhar Umar
Former Malaysian police bodyguard Sirul Azhar Umar was convicted for the murder of a Mongolian model. Photograph: Supplied

The Mongolian president, Battulga Khaltmaa, called for justice in a congratulatory message to the 92-year-old Mahathir.

“As president of Mongolia, I pay special attention to the aggravated crime, that on October 18, 2006, a citizen of Mongolia and mother of two children, Shaariibuu Altantuya, was murdered in Malaysia,” he said in the letter to Mahathir.

Mahathir, asked on Monday whether he would consider commuting Sirul’s death sentence, said: “We cannot do everything at the same time at one go.”

Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader who allied with Mahathir to topple Najib, said judges’ reluctance to call key witnesses in the murder case had “made a mockery of the law”.

“The best way is to proffer a new charge and allow for a full hearing of the case,” Anwar told the Australian newspaper following his own release from prison earlier this week after a royal pardon quashed a politically motivated sodomy conviction.

Anwar told AFP on Thursday that Sirul and his accomplice Azilah Hadri should be granted fresh trials.

• Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

Guardian staff and agencies

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