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Najib arrested, to face charges in 1MDB case

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Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will face charges of abusing his position and graft related to money allegedly siphoned off from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the country's anti-corruption agency said on Wednesday.

[HONG KONG] Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia, was arrested Wednesday and will be charged over hundreds of millions of dollars that were transferred to his personal account, the country’s anti-corruption agency said.

Najib, 65, was previously arrested in July and charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of corruption as part of an investigation into the diversion of money from a state investment fund he founded.

His latest arrest was over US$681 million deposited into his account in 2013, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said in a statement. Najib has long said the money came from Saudi donors, but prosecutors say it was taken from the investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, known as 1MDB.

He was arrested at the anti-corruption agency’s headquarters in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon and will face several charges, the agency said. Najib was also charged with three counts of money laundering last month.

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Najib once appeared untouchable at the top of a powerful political machine, but he was ousted in a May election, the first-ever defeat of a coalition that had ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

An alliance that included Najib’s one time mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, capitalized on public anger over the 1MDB scandal to remove him from office. Mahathir, 93, who led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, is now prime minister once again.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all previous charges.

The US Justice Department has said American financial institutions were used to launder at least US$4.5 billion siphoned from 1MDB and used by Najib, his family and associates.

The Malaysian police said in June that they had seized as much as US$273 million worth of cash, jewelry and purses from properties owned by Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor. One official called it the “biggest seizure in Malaysian history.”

Last month, Malaysia also recovered a US$250 million yacht the authorities say was purchased with 1MDB funds. American prosecutors say the yacht, called Equanimity, was bought by Jho Low, a Malaysian financier accused of helping orchestrate the diversion of money from the state fund.

Low, a friend of Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, was charged in absentia with eight counts of money laundering last month. His whereabouts is unknown, although mainland China is considered the most likely location.

He has professed innocence. A spokesman for Low said in a statement last month that he “will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and self-interest overrules legal process.”

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