Malaysia freezes bank accounts of Najib’s party in 1MDB probe
Revelation comes a day after PM Mahathir said Najib will be prosecuted soon
Malaysia on Friday said it had frozen bank accounts of the political party once led by former premier Najib Razak as part of an investigation into alleged misappropriation from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which led a coalition that had governed the country for more than 60 years until last month, is believed to have received funds from 1MDB when Najib was leading the party.
Malaysia reopened investigations into 1MDB in May after the shock election win by the opposition, led by veteran former leader Mahathir Mohamad. His alliance has vowed to recoup money allegedly siphoned off from the fund.
A task force looking into 1MDB said a number of bank accounts of several companies and organisations had been frozen.
“The 1MDB task force confirms it has frozen a number of accounts owned by individuals and organisations, including Umno and other political parties believed to be involved in the misappropriation of 1MDB funds,” it said in a statement.
Umno did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing.
The freezing of the accounts has raised more questions about the fate of Umno, which has been the party of all but one of Malaysia’s prime ministers. Mahathir led the country as Umno leader in his first stint as premier, before he quit the party over the 1MDB scandal.
Several Umno lawmakers have quit the party since the election, and it has also been abandoned by most of its coalition partners.
The party is set to hold an election for party president on Saturday, after Najib stepped down as Umno chief following the election defeat.
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Umno’s acting president, was quoted by state news agency Bernama as saying he expected party officials, including ones elected to posts on Saturday, to be investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Earlier this week, police said nearly US$275 million worth of jewellery, handbags, watches and other items were found at premises linked to Najib and his family. Authorities also found about US$29 million in cash.
Najib has said the money was for election purposes and that it came from “genuine donations”.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said earlier this month that the government is looking to recover lost 1MDB funds, including from political parties that have received the fund’s money. He said Umno was not the only political party to have received 1MDB funds.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, meanwhile, has said Malaysia is looking to bring a range of charges against Najib, including embezzlement and bribery.
Late on Thursday, state news agency Bernama reported Mahathir as saying Najib will be prosecuted soon.
“I think [Najib] will be brought to the court soon,” Mahathir was quoted as saying on an official visit to Jakarta.