Authorities in Malaysia arrested former Prime Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday, the country’s anti-corruption body announced.
In a statement, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed that Najib was arrested in connection with billions of dollars of state funds that disappeared while he was in power. Sources close to his family said that Najib was picked up from his Kuala Lumpur home after being served with a remand order.
Last week, police confirmed that they had seized $225 million worth of luxury items such as handbags, watches, and jewelry, as well as other cash and goods from multiple properties linked to the former leader.
The seizure was part of an investigation into Najib’s involvement with 1MDB, a state investment firm from which investigators believe he misappropriated billions of dollars.
Najib left office in May after being soundly defeated in parliamentary elections by a coalition led by 92-year-old former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.
Initial suspicions against Najib grew in 2015 when it emerged he had deposited $681 million into his bank account, claiming the money was a gift from the Saudi Royal Family.
On Tuesday, the former head of Malaysia’s central bank revealed that Najib had asked her to issue a statement saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing, a request she denied.
“On 3rd July 2015, I was called to the Prime Minister’s office. He made a request for me to issue a statement that he had done nothing wrong in his account,” she said. “I informed him that I cannot issue such a statement because I did not have knowledge of transactions that had occurred in his account.”
In an interview with Reuters last month, Mohamad said Najib would face charges of embezzlement and bribery, adding that authorities had “an almost perfect case” against him.
Many people across Malaysia expressed joy at the arrest, pointing to it as an example of how the country is finally cracking down on rampant corruption that has dominated its political culture over recent years.
“My WhatsApp is full of messages [from my constituents] saying ‘This is the happiest day of my life,'” government MP Wong Chen told The Financial Times. “This is expected to be a simple slam-dunk case … The government may want to nail Najib first in this case before going after the mega 1MDB scandal.”
“I think it’s about time,” added MP Maria Chin Abdullah, who has long campaigned against Malaysia’s corruption and human rights abuses. “I must say I was very happy because at last we are going to get to the bottom of this and this is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Najib has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. It is currently unclear how many charges he will face or whether he will be granted bail.