KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities barred ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife from leaving the country on Saturday (May 12), amid reports that the government was reopening investigations into a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at a state fund he founded.
The order by immigration authorities came minutes after Najib said in a Facebook post that he and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, were taking a week-long holiday overseas to rest after his defeat in Wednesday's general election.
"The Malaysian Immigration Department would like to confirm that Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor have just been blacklisted from leaving the country," the agency said on its official Facebook page. It gave no reason.
Moments later again, Najib said in a Twitter message that he would respect the decision and would remain in the country. He was last known to be at his home in the upmarket Bukit Tunku neighbourhood of Kuala Lumpur.
“I have been informed that the immigration authorities will not allow my family and me to leave the country," Najib posted. "I respect the directive and will remain with my family in the country."
The travel ban came as speculation mounted that Najib and Rosmah, a hugely unpopular figure due to her reported love of luxury shopping trips, were about to board a flight to fly to Indonesia.
Earlier, an angry crowd descended on the airport in a bid to stop them leaving. Riot police were stationed by the gate of the airport where it was believed Najib would enter.
As a white van with heavily tinted windows attempted to pass by, the crowd surrounded the vehicle and demanded it be opened so they could see who was inside.
They tried to rock the vehicle and one man shouted: "I hate Rosmah".
It was only allowed to pass after those inside rolled down a window to prove Najib was not in the van.
Businessman Raja Singham, 49, who had tried to block the van from entering, said: "We have the right to know who is inside the car, as a citizen I will fight for that. We have suffered for so many years. I don't want them to get out of the country."
After Najib's defeat at the elections, speculation mounted the pair might flee the country as former strongman premier Mahathir Mohamad has pledged to probe a massive scandal in which Najib is implicated concerning the theft of billions of dollars of state funds.
Najib said earlier on Facebook he accepted responsibility for the election loss, and while on holiday would consider his position as president of the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party and chairman of the Barisan Nasional coalition.