June 11, 2018 / 10:31 AM / 8 days ago

Malaysia's Najib maintains innocence as 1MDB probe picks up steam

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday said he did not benefit or steal money from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), as authorities searched a new premise and sought additional witnesses in an ongoing probe on the state fund.

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak arrives to give a statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Putrajaya, Malaysia May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

Malaysia is investigating allegations that billions of dollars had been siphoned from 1MDB, which Najib founded and was a key reason behind his shock loss in at an election last month.

“I would like to repeat that I did not receive any benefits or stole money from 1MDB or any party,” Najib said in a Facebook post, after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Sunday that strong evidence is needed before the authorities can book the former prime minister.

At a dinner with Malaysians living in Japan on Sunday, Mahathir was quoted by Malaysian media saying that it was “not so easy” to arrest and charge Najib as the authorities need evidence that would pass muster before a court.

“If I am to be charged on political grounds, I am confident the courts will find me innocent,” Najib said.

1MDB was founded by Najib in 2009 and is the subject of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

The U.S. Department of Justice has alleged that more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, and about $700 million of that went to Najib’s personal bank accounts.

Najib has always denied any wrongdoing.

Police on Monday raided a house linked to Najib in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, the latest premise to be searched in connection with their investigation on 1MDB.

Officers were seen carrying out boxes from the house before leaving in four police cars, according to national news wire Bernama.

Police had seized hundreds of luxury handbags and dozens other bags filled with jewellery and cash in earlier searches of premises linked to Najib. The former prime minister also gave a statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission as part of its probe on a former 1MDB unit.

The commission also issued a notice on Monday, asking four individuals to assist in their probe on 1MDB, including an aide to Low Taek Jho - regarded to be close to Najib and his family and a central figure in the 1MDB scandal.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Michael Perry

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