Malaysia’s Former PM Blacklisted From Leaving Country, Accused Of Stealing $700 Million

Lai Seng Sin AP Images

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife were not expecting that he’d fall out of his position of power. However, public outrage over a state fund scandal and higher cost of living led to his National Front party losing 143 out of 222 of the parliamentary seats. The United Malays National Organization called upon Najib to resign, which he did, saying, “We accept the people’s verdict with an open heart.”

So as of earlier this week, a new Prime Minister has been elected, Mahathir Mohamad. He is 92 years old, making him the world’s oldest elected leader, according to the BBC. Mahathir previously served as prime minister for 22 years and retired in 2003.

For Najib, the loss of his post as prime minister also means that he is now unable to leave the country. As he announced his intent to vacation, a travel ban was set for him and his wife. This was done so that the accusations against Najib could be investigated, which Mahathir elaborated upon at a press conference.

“There are a lot of complaints against him, all of which have to be investigated…We have to act quickly because we don’t want to be saddled with extradition from other countries.”

The accusations surround the state funds called 1MDB. U.S. investigators believe Najib’s associates stole $4.5 billion from the funds, from which $700 million ended up in Najib’s personal account. He supposedly used $30 million or so of the $700 million to buy jewelry for his wife, according to the Washington Post.

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One of the main reasons that Mahathir decided to seek office again, was to hold Najib accountable for his reported money laundering. So it comes as no surprise that after Najib announced he would be leaving on vacation, the government acted swiftly to place a travel ban. If Najib left the country, the government would have to work with foreign governments to extradite Najib, which could prove to be a complex and lengthy process. Upon hearing about the travel ban, Najib said that he would “abide” by the ban.

The 1MDB, which is short for 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was founded in 2009 by Najib. The idea was to use the money to boost Kuala Lumpur’s economy. However, the government started missing payments on $11 billion that it owed to banks, and later the Wall Street Journal accused Najib of laundering $700 million from state funds into his personal accounts.

Najib denies any wrongdoing and says that he did not take any money from state funds.