October 3, 2018 / 3:36 AM / 12 days ago

Wife of Malaysia's former PM Najib arrested by anti-graft agency

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian anti-graft authorities on Wednesday arrested former first lady Rosmah Mansor, who will spend a night in detention before being taken to court to face money-laundering charges.

Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak, arrives to give a statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Putrajaya, Malaysia September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said it arrested Rosmah, 66, who will face charges in court on Thursday for infringing an anti-money laundering law.

“Rosmah will face several charges,” the agency said in a statement.

Rosmah’s arrest follows three rounds of questioning by anti-graft agents over state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), from which U.S. authorities say more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated. Last Wednesday, she was questioned for nearly 13 hours.

After Najib’s election defeat in May, the couple have seen their world turned upside down, with authorities banning them from leaving the country and the police searching their homes.

FILE PHOTO Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak of Barisan Nasional (National Front) and his wife Rosmah Mansor show their ink-stained fingers after voting in Malaysia's general election in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia, May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

Malaysians have been outraged by the seizure of around $275 million worth of cash and goods, including a vast collection of Hermes Birkin and other designer handbags, jewelry and watches from properties linked to the couple.

Najib has said most of the seized items were gifts to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1MDB.

The anti-graft agency did not say if the charges against Rosmah relate to 1MDB.

After the arrest, Rosmah’s lawyer, Geethan Ram Vincent, told reporters her lawyers had not been informed of the nature of the charges to be filed against her.

Rosmah smiled and shook hands with officers of the anti-graft agency as she arrived at its headquarters at around 0300 GMT, wearing a headscarf, and traditional Malay garb of floor-length skirt and a blouse in lime-green.

She made no comment to reporters.

Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak, arrives in court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

Najib faces 32 charges ranging from money laundering to abuse of power and criminal breach of trust in the effort to uncover how billions of dollars went missing from 1MDB.

He has consistently denied wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Najib, 64, himself faced questioning on Wednesday by the anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing division of Malaysia’s police over a money laundering inquiry, media said.

He is also set to be in court on Thursday for a pre-trial hearing of charges related to 1MDB filed against him.

Corruption accusations have dogged Najib for years, and came to a head in 2015, when the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly $700 million in 1MDB funds was diverted to his personal bank account.

Najib lost the May election to his one-time mentor Mahathir Mohamad, who swiftly reopened a probe into 1MDB.

Additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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