Malaysia's Mahathir says prevented Najib from leaving country, sacked attorney general

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Saturday he had stopped his predecessor Najib Razak from leaving the country, and sacked the attorney general who had cleared him of involvement in a multi-billion-dollar scandal.

Malaysia's newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad attends a news conference in Menara Yayasan Selangor, Pataling Jaya, Malaysia May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

“It is true that I prevented Najib from leaving the country far as I know, he and his wife (were prevented from leaving). I’m not aware of other people,” Mahathir told reporters at a news conference.

Immigration authorities issued an overseas travel ban on Najib and his wife earlier in the day, amid reports that the government was reopening investigations into a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at a state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The decision was announced just minutes after Najib said in a Facebook post that he and his family were taking a week-long holiday overseas to rest after his thumping defeat in Wednesday’s general election.

Mahathir also said he had replaced the country’s attorney general, who had cleared Najib of all wrongdoing in the 1MDB scandal.

“We have placed a number of restrictions on certain people who have been involved in wrongdoing or making wrong decisions,” he said. “So at the moment we no longer have an attorney-general.”

He also said he had instructed that a 1MDB report that was classified as an official secret during Najib’s term be released.

A former prime minister for 22 years, Mahathir returned to politics after a feud with Najib over the 1MDB scandal, and teamed up with an opposition alliance including former foe Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar, 70 is serving a five-year sentence for sodomy, a charge he and his supporters say was politically motivated. Mahathir has said the king has indicated to him that a royal pardon for Anwar would be announced soon.

“This process has certain rules and regulations that we have to adhere to,” Mahathir said.

“So we will expedite this as soon as possible, for his release and for his pardon. As to his role in the future, that will be determined by the party.”

Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Rozanna Latiff; writing by Praveen Menon; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan