Malaysian police yesterday cordoned off a residential district in the Taman Duta area where former prime minister Najib Razak has his private residence, a day after newly minted Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad banned his predecessor from leaving the country, and indicated that he was starting a probe into the 1MDB financial scandal.
Police told reporters that they were there to monitor the security of the area, known for its stately bungalows, with all vehicles and individuals inspected before they would be waved through.
Journalists, some of whom had been camping in the area in the past few days, were barred from entering, Bernama news agency reported.
"There has always been a police unit stationed nearby, even before the general election. But we decided to cordon off the area as the presence of people there is buil-ding up over time, especially post-election," deputy police chief superintendent Mohamed Rafiq Mohamed Mustafa of Sentul district police told The Straits Times.
"It is to ensure that security is maintained. It has nothing to do with us detecting any threat there," he said.
Tun Dr Mahathir has said he is lifting any restrictions from the Official Secrets Act on publicising the details of a report into 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the state fund started by Datuk Seri Najib in 2009 after he became prime minister and that he oversaw as finance minister. Billions of dollars were reportedly siphoned off from 1MDB.
Dr Mahathir said on Saturday that he had personally ordered travel restrictions on Mr Najib after news spread that the former premier was about to fly off to Jakarta for a short break. Crowds quickly gathered at the Subang airport where Mr Najib was slated to depart from, with police called in.
Mr Najib said later that he has cancelled his plan to travel.
Meanwhile, police have denied raiding a luxury condominium in downtown Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, where family members of the former prime minister allegedly live.
A news agency report that the Pavilion Residences in the Bukit Bintang shopping district was raided by police created a huge buzz in Malaysia.
"The only group of policemen in the area at the time of the supposed 'raid' was our crime prevention unit, and they were not instructed to do a bust there," said a senior police officer with the Dang Wangi district police, who declined to be named.
"I was told they were instructed to patrol the area and probably check out the CCTV there, but some of their peers had decided to have a look-see for themselves following a report. Nothing more."
On Thursday, two youth leaders of Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia made a police report alleging that vans marked with logos of the Prime Minister's Department delivered boxes for 50 Birkin handbags for Mr Najib's wife to Pavilion Residences.