Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, is questioned by the country’s anti-graft agency in matters related to the 1MDB probe. Meanwhile, two prominent lawyers representing the duo quit.

Rosmah Mansor, accompanied by her daughter and son-in-law, didn't speak to reporters as she was escorted into Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission's office.
Rosmah Mansor, accompanied by her daughter and son-in-law, didn't speak to reporters as she was escorted into Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission's office. (AFP)

The wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was questioned on Tuesday by the country's anti-corruption agency over alleged theft and money-laundering involving the 1MDB state investment fund.

The move came as Najib's lawyers said they had would no longer lead the defence in the case.

Prosecution over the 1MDB scandal could also be sped up with the government's appointment of a new attorney general, Tommy Thomas, the first member of an ethnic minority in the Malay-majority country to hold the post in 55 years.

Rosmah Mansor, accompanied by her daughter and son-in-law, didn't speak to reporters as she was escorted into Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission's office. She was summoned nearly two weeks after Najib was questioned twice by the agency.

Lawyer M Puravelan told the Associated Press he has ceased representing Rosmah and Najib.

He said another prominent lawyer Yusof Zainal Abideen had also withdrawn his services to the couple. He denied reports that they quit because of disagreement over the 1MDB case but declined to elaborate.

Najib set up the fund when he took power in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts.

US investigators say Najib's associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the fund from 2009 to 2014, some of which landed in Najib's bank account and $27.3 million allegedly was used to buy a rare diamond necklace for Rosmah.

The scandal was a key reason why Malaysian's voted Najib out of office in May 9 elections.

The country's new leader, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations into 1MDB that were suppressed under Najib's rule. 

Mahathir also banned the couple from leaving the country.

TRT World spoke with journalist Zan Azlee for more.

Official who cleared Najib terminated

A palace statement on Tuesday said King Sultan Muhammad V approved terminating current Attorney General Mohamad Apandi Ali, who cleared Najib of wrongdoing in 2016, and replacing him with Thomas, an ethnic Indian and Christian.

Media reports said Mahathir submitted Thomas' candidacy to the king nearly two weeks ago but the nomination sparked a bitter debate over his race and religion. 

Groups representing ethnic Malays, who make up two-thirds of Malaysia's 31 million people, had demanded the top legal job go to a Muslim to ensure Islam is protected as the official religion.

The palace statement said the king urged all Malaysians to ensure the appointment of Thomas doesn't "create any religious or racial conflict as every Malaysian should be treated fairly." 

He promised that Malay rights and Islam would remain protected.

Many Malaysians, including Malays, supported Thomas, saying on social media that his appointment will bolster institutional reforms and reflects a new Malaysia that is free from racial and religious barriers.

Thomas, 66, is a renowned senior lawyer whose first task will be to handle prosecution in the 1MDB case.

His predecessor Apandi cleared Najib of wrongdoing, saying some $700 million that landed in Najib's bank account was a donation from the Saudi royal family and that most of it had been returned. But US investigators say the money was from 1MDB.

Najib conducted 'an exercise of deception'

Najib was grilled last month over why an additional 42 million ringgit ($10.6 million) was transferred into his bank account from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund, using multiple intermediary companies. His wife Rosmah is being questioned on the same case.

Police have seized 114 million ringgit ($28.7 million) in cash and hundreds of expensive designer handbags and jewelry from Najib's home and other properties. 

The government says Najib's administration conducted "an exercise of deception" over 1MDB and deceived parliament over the country's financial situation. Officials say the national debt has ballooned to more than 1 trillion ringgit ($252 billion), partly due to the 1MDB saga.

Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003, was spurred out of retirement by the 1MDB scandal. He has vowed there will be no deal for Najib, saying he will face the consequences if found guilty of wrongdoing.

Source: AP