Malaysia arrests ex-PM Najib Razak as 'Mission Mahathir' comes full circle

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arrested

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak Reuters

Malaysian police have arrested former prime minister Najib Razak a little more than a month after he lost the electoral battle against mentor-turned-foe Mahathir Mohamad. Najib's lawyers confirmed the arrest and the local media said a police car took him from his Kuala Lumpur home late in the afternoon.

The former prime minister's arrest came after a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal tainted his reign, provoked Mahathir to come out of retirement to fight graft, and eventually cost the premier a crucial election.

In an ongoing probe against the former prime minister, Malaysian investigators had last week seized $273 million worth of jewellery and other luxury items from Najib and his wife. Najib has been at the centre of the multibillion dollar 1Malaysia development Berhad corruption scandal that rocked the country in 2016. According to investigators in the US, Najib and his family had appropriated as much as US$700 million of the dirty funds.

Najib, the son of a former prime minister, and his wife were barred from travelling out of the country after the raid, which raked up what the authorities said was the "biggest seizure in Malaysian history'.

Lawyers said the arrested leader of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) will be arraigned on Wednesday.

What Is 1Malaysia Development Berhad Scandal?

Though Mahathir asked him to quit after the 1mdb scandal broke, Najib battled on vigorously. He was under the scanner after reports emerged that millions of dollars from the state funds might have been diverted into his personal bank accounts.

The payments were made from one of several private bank accounts owned by Najib and the funds originated from government investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, which is under investigation.

Many countries including Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, UK and the United Arab Emirates launched investigation into the money trail linked to the corruption at the Malaysian state investment fund. Later, the US investigators also implicated Najib in the financial fraud.