KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak has through his lawyer complained about "unwarranted harassment" after a police raid at his Taman Duta home that began late on Wednesday (May 16) night dragged on to Thursday evening with no arrests being made.
Police cars and a police truck were seen outside the Taman Duta mansion in Kuala Lumpur from around 10.15pm on Wednesday. The truck, also called a Black Maria, is mainly used by the Malaysian police to transport detainees but was reportedly there to transport items seized in the raid. Personal items, including handbags and clothes were taken from the mansion in the early hours of Thursday morning.
According to a statement issued by Datuk Seri Najib's lawyer Harpal Singh Grewal, the police team said they were leaving after packing the last box at 5am but a number of police personnel remained at the premises. At about 8.30am, he said, they decided to drill open a safe which had stayed locked for two decades because the key had been misplaced. The drilling continues as at 5 pm, and "there is no peace and quiet in the house".
"This harassment has now continued for almost 18 hours and and nothing meaningful has come from the search and seizure of what would appear to be insignificant personal items," the lawyer concluded.
The raid was also conducted on the eve of the Muslim fasting month, and Datuk Harpal claimed Mr Najib's family and staff were denied the right to properly conduct their religious obligations prior to beginning the fast on the first day of Ramadan.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday (May 17) afternoon he had no knowledge of the police's plans to raid the homes of Mr Najib on Wednesday night.
“The police have their standard operating procedure. I didn’t know that they should raid at night. But my instruction is very clear. I’m not going to torture people or things like that. I want people to be treated decently,” said Tun Dr Mahathir.
So far there are no indications that any arrests will be made.
Amar Singh, the director of police commercial crime investigations, told Reuters on Thursday that searches were continuing at the Taman Duta house, at the prime minister’s office and a residence he had used, as well as two apartments owned by his family.
“We are in the midst of collecting information, we will have more details once we have completed our search,” he said, confirming that the searches were related to investigations into the 1MDB scandal that had dogged Mr Najib since 2015.
A man claiming to be a member of Umno, the political party formerly led by Mr Najib, has asked if the former premier is under house arrest. Mr Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman (pic), 65, tried to enter the house at 11.30am but was turned away, reported The Star.
“Najib is being treated like a political prisoner or criminal without being charged,” he said. “He (Najib) is a strong man, a principled man,” Mr Abdul Rahim told reporters camped outside the house.
Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, from the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, has also spoken out against the late-night raid.
“As former victims of early dawn police raids, I must stress my disagreement in ransacking any home at such an ungodly hour.
“Charge, investigate, prudently. The principles of justice and wisdom always apply,” the eldest daughter of former jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim said on Twitter on Thursday.
Police officers also searched Pavilion Residences in downtown Kuala Lumpur. and were spotted carrying out several boxes from Mr Najib's condominium there, according to the New Straits Times.
Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigations Department director Amar Singh told reporters that police performed searches on a total of five locations belonging to and connected to the former premier, according to The Star.
He said they were searching for evidence in an ongoing probe but did not elaborate. One of the locations is believed to be the Prime Minister's Office.
Speaking to reporters outside Mr Najib's Taman Duta residence at around 4am on Thursday, Mr Harpal had confirmed the police search and that Mr Najib and his family were cooperative.
"No documents were taken, nothing of note, only personal possessions, including bags. We believe that the police will take out two to three boxes of items,” he said.
“It's a big house so they had to search each room. That's why it took so long. There are no arrests now and no indication that there will be an arrest."
While there have been no charges against his client, Mr Harpal told reporters he believed they could be under the Money Laundering Act.
Mr Najib has been linked to graft claims at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday that he is confident prosecutors will soon have a strong case to charge the former leader.
The police arrived at the house in Taman Duta after Mr Najib returned from performing “tarawih”, extra prayers that are performed by Muslims during Ramadan, at the Kampung Baru mosque.
Earlier in the day, Mr Najib surprised journalists gathered outside his house when he left his house in a white Vellfire vehicle with police escorts. He and his wife have been barred from leaving the country.
His Facebook page showed photos of him at the mosque on Wednesday evening, the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The increased police presence came several hours after Parti Keadilan Rakyat de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim was released from prison after receiving a full royal pardon for a sodomy conviction.
Mr Najib has been embroiled in a multibillion-dollar scandal since 2015 after around US$700 million (S$932.8 million) - alleged to be 1MDB funds - appeared in his personal accounts before the election in 2013.
Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing.
Three days after his former mentor, Tun Dr Mahathir, secured a stunning victory in the May 9 election, Mr Najib was barred from leaving the country. Dr Mahathir also said he would reopen a graft probe targeting the state fund.
The 92-year-old newly minted prime minister spoke about the 1MDB investigation on Tuesday.
"We are slowly getting to the bottom of things, and many of our senior officers are volunteering information accompanied, of course, by documents... We think that within a short while, we will have a case against him, we will be able to charge him," he said via video link to The Wall Street Journal CEO Council Meeting in Tokyo.