KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police conducted searches through the night and into Thursday morning (May 17) at five locations linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak, including the family home where he stays, a senior police officer said.
A lawyer for Najib, who was ousted from office in last week's general election, said police seized handbags and a few other personal items from Najib's home in connection with a money-laundering probe.
A multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Najib, is being investigated by police in at least six countries, including the United States. Najib denies any wrongdoing.
Amar Singh, the director of police commercial crime investigations, told Reuters that five places linked to Najib were being searched, including the family home in an upmarket Kuala Lumpur district.
Singh gave no other details, but the Star newspaper said searches were also conducted at the prime minister's office, the official residence and two places linked to Najib's family in a luxury Kuala Lumpur condominium.
The search at the family home was continuing at 0200 GMT (10am Singapore time), nearly 12 hours after a dozen armed policemen first entered the premises. The police started the search after Najib returned home from prayers at a mosque to mark the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Officers were seen taking large bags into the house and later loading them into a truck.
"The search is supposed to be under money laundering act ... they found nothing incriminating,” Najib's lawyer Harpal Singh Grewal told reporters who were camped outside the house.
"Nothing serious. About two, three boxes" of them, Harpal said about the personal possessions - including handbags - that were seized.
When asked whether Najib would be arrested, he said: "There is no indication that they (the police) will do it.”
He said Najib and his family were cooperative with police. "They (the police) also acted professionally," he said.
Najib's long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was defeated in a general election last week. Just days later, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad barred Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.
Mahathir, 92, has said there is sufficient evidence to investigate the scandal at 1MDB.
He has replaced the country's attorney-general and officials at the anti-graft agency, in what appears to be a purge of people seen as close to the former prime minister.
On Wednesday, jailed reformist Anwar Ibrahim was granted a full pardon and freed, underlining the dramatic changes in the Southeast Asian country in the last seven days.
Anwar, 70, said he would like to take time off with his family and did not intend to join the Cabinet anytime soon. He said he would support the government led by Mahathir and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar's wife.
"I've told Tun Mahathir, I don't need to serve in the Cabinet for now," Anwar said, using an honorific for the prime minister.
He was eventually sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi (Reform) movement, challenging Mahathir's government. Within weeks, he was arrested and jailed on disputed charges of sodomy and corruption.
After being freed in 2004, Anwar was jailed a second time for sodomy in 2015, when Najib was in power.
Both times, he and his supporters said the charges were politically motivated.
Anwar told a news conference at his home on Wednesday that he had forgiven Mahathir.
"I and Mahathir have buried the hatchet already, it was a long time ago," Anwar said. "I have forgiven him, he has proved his mettle. Why should I harbour any malice towards him?"
The pardon, which enables Anwar to re-enter politics immediately, was granted on the grounds that there had been a miscarriage of justice.
Mahathir had promised during the election campaign that he would step down and let Anwar be prime minister, but said this week he planned to stay in the post for one or two years.