Najib Razak Is Barred From Leaving Malaysia Over Extradition Fears


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, on Saturday barred his predecessor, Najib Razak, and his wife from leaving the country as a leaked flight plan stirred suspicion that they were planning to flee.

The travel ban increases the likelihood that Mr. Najib will be investigated on corruption accusations over the misappropriation of billions of dollars from a state investment fund, including $731 million that the United States Justice Department says was deposited into his accounts.

The Immigration Department of Malaysia said on Saturday in a post on its Facebook page that Mr. Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, had been placed on a blacklist that prevented them from leaving the country.

Mr. Mahathir said later at a news conference that he had ordered the department to bar Mr. Najib and his wife from leaving.

“There are a lot complaints against him, all of which have to be investigated,” Mr. Mahathir said of Mr. Najib. “We had to act quickly because we don’t want to be saddled with problem of extradition from another country.”

Mr. Najib wrote on social media that he would respect the decision.

In a series of messages earlier on Saturday, Mr. Najib said he apologized “for any shortcomings and mistakes,” but did not address the scandal at the fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, known as 1MDB, directly in his Twitter post.

He said that he planned to “take a short break to spend time with my family,” but he did not mention news reports that said he and his wife were planning to travel to Jakarta, Indonesia, citing the leaked flight plan.

“I pray that after this divisive period, the country will unite,” he wrote as part of his posts on Twitter and Facebook. “I apologise for any shortcomings and mistakes, and I thank you, the people, for the opportunity to lead our great nation. It has been the honour of my lifetime to serve you and Malaysia.”

He has previously denied any wrongdoing in connection with 1MDB.

Malaysiakini, a news website, quoted a source close to Mr. Najib who said the former prime minister and his wife planned to go to Jakarta for a two-day trip but would return.

A crowd of people and journalists gathered on Saturday at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, where the couple were apparently scheduled to depart on a private plane. Some of the crowd peered into arriving vehicles, but there was no indication that Mr. Najib and his wife were there.

At a separate news conference on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Najib announced that he was resigning as president of the United Malays National Organization, the party that had governed the country since independence from Britain in 1957. He also said he was stepping down as chairman of Barisan Nasional, which had been the governing coalition until this past week’s election.

Mr. Mahathir, who previously served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, said that any wrongdoing connected with 1MDB would be investigated.

“There is sufficient evidence that an investigation into certain things that have been done by the former prime minister has to be done, and if necessary the rule of law will apply,” he said.

Mr. Mahathir added that the investigation would also look at whether officials had failed to fully pursue allegations in the 1MDB case. The government has to place “certain restrictions” on “people who may be involved in wrongdoing or making wrong decisions,” he said.

At the news conference, Mr. Mahathir also named his first three cabinet ministers: Lim Guan Eng, secretary general of the Democratic Action Party, as finance minister; Mohamad Sabu, president of the National Trust Party, as minister of defense; and Muhyiddin Yassin, a former deputy prime minister who had called on Mr. Najib to step down, as home affairs minister.

Mr. Mahathir also named a so-called council of elders that included the tycoon Robert Kuok to advise the new government.

Mr. Lim was asked by a Chinese journalist how he felt about being the first ethnic Chinese to hold his position in 44 years.

“I don’t consider myself as a Chinese,” he responded. “I am a Malaysian.”

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Malaysia’s new prime minister. He is Mahathir Mohamad, not Mahathir.

Rick Paddock and Sharon Tan contributed reporting from Kuala Lumpur.



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