Anti-graft unit grills Najib’s former deputy, freezes bank accounts
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quizzed by investigators for eight hours, while accounts linked to 1MDB fund have been frozen
Malaysia has frozen hundreds of bank accounts believed to be linked to sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, officials said on Monday, as they stepped up an anti-graft probe that could engulf former prime minister Najib Razak. At the same time, the former deputy prime minister was questioned for eight hours as part of the investigation.
A special government task force investigating a corruption scandal involving 1MDB said it froze 408 bank accounts containing a total 1.1 billion ringgit (US$272 million) last week.
“The accounts are believed to be connected with the misappropriation and misuse of 1MDB funds,” the task force said in a statement. “They involved nearly 900 transactions made between March 2011 and September 2015.”
The funds in the frozen accounts came from individuals, political parties and non-government organisations, it said without mentioning names.
However, the task force’s statement followed local media reports last week that accounts belonging Najib’s political party, the once-powerful United Malays National Organisation (Umno), had been frozen.
Also on Monday, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who was elected over the weekend as the new chief of the former ruling party, told reporters that he was asked about claims he made in 2015 that he had met representatives of the Arab family who donated some US$700 million that made its way into Najib’s bank account.
Zahid, 65, made the claim shortly after he was appointed as deputy prime minister in 2015 after Najib fired his then-deputy for questioning him over the 1MDB saga.
Najib resigned as the party’s leader days after his Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional coalition – which ruled Malaysia for more than 60 years – was roundly defeated in the May 9 elections.
Najib is being investigated over allegations that billions of dollars were looted from 1MDB, a state fund he founded.
Both Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
Premises linked to him and his family were raided recently by the police, who uncovered a treasure trove of cash and valuables said to be worth up to 1.1 billion ringgit.
The items included luxury handbags believed to have been accumulated by his wife Rosmah, who has been accused of going on extravagant shopping sprees.
However, no charges have been filed against them so far.
Najib has said most of the items seized were gifts from friends and foreign dignitaries, including royalty, during special occasions such as official visits and birthdays.
Local media, meanwhile, said Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, an aspiring Hollywood producer, is expected to be questioned by anti-graft officials on Tuesday.