Defeated Malaysian Prime Minister Is Barred From Leaving Country

Defeated Malaysian Prime Minister Is Barred From Leaving Country

Kerry Wise
May 13, 2018

Earlier this morning, Reuters said that Malaysian authorities had barred Najib and his wife from leaving the country, amid reports that the government was reopening investigations into a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at a state fund he founded. Lim is the chief minister of Penang state, but is largely unknown in worldwide financial circles.

Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert at John Cabot University in Rome, said it was hugely ironic that Mahathir, who damaged Malaysia's democratic institutions with his strong-arm rule, has returned as its political saviour.

The prime minister also said a special council including Hong Kong-based Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok would be set up to advise the government.

Citing resources, local media Malaymail also reported on May 11 that Najib and his wife are scheduled to depart from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang on May 12 on a plane bound for Jakarta.

He came out of retirement to take on his former protege, Najib Razak.

The election result is a political quake for the Muslim-majority country, ending the BN's unbroken 60-year rule and sweeping aside Najib, whose reputation was tarnished by a massive corruption scandal, a crackdown on dissent and the imposition of an unpopular sales tax that hurt many of his coalition's poor rural supporters. "I respect the decision and I will remain in the country with my family".

When asked why only three out of 10 positions were announced, Mahathir said: "We can't say abracadabra and everything happens, it takes time", adding that several factors such as their qualifications, experience and views of the four parties in the coalition need to be taken into consideration.

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In an emotionally charged press conference later, Najib announced he was stepping down as chairman of BN and president of its main party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), following the historic loss. Mahathir was expected to reveal his cabinet line-up later Saturday. Riot police were stationed by the gate of the airport where it was believed Najib would enter.

US investigators say Najib's associates stole and looted $4.5 billion from the fund, with some $700 million landing in Najib's bank account and around $30 million used to buy jewelry for his wife.

"The immigration department has just now blacklisted Najib and Rosmah from leaving the country", Mustafar Ali, director-general of the immigration department, told AFP.

"Corruption scandals and Najib's ostentatious wealth flew in the face of ordinary people struggling to make ends meet - and unlike in the last election, they had somewhere else to go, a former premier who while not uncontroversial is known by the public".

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing in connection with 1MDB.

He denied any wrongdoing, even as USA authorities alleged that over $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund in a fraud orchestrated by a financier known to be close to Najib and his family.

But the US State Department has alleged in civil lawsuits that $4.5 billion was looted from the fund, and used to buy everything from high-end US real estate to artworks and a luxury yacht.