July 11, 2018 / 4:22 PM / 9 days ago

Malaysia's ex-PM Najib says his personal freedom violated after bank account frozen

KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 (Reuters) - Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak said on Wednesday that authorities had infringed on his personal freedoms by freezing his bank account.

Najib was arrested and charged in Malaysia last week with abuse of power and criminal breach of trust related to an alleged transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.4 million) into his personal bank account from SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1MDB. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released after posting bail. Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB.

Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which is leading the investigation into 1MDB, froze more than 400 bank accounts last week as part of an investigation into alleged misappropriation of funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund founded by Najib. It said it believed the accounts were linked to the misappropriation and misuse of 1MDB funds.

Najib said his children and grandchildren's bank accounts, also frozen last week, have since been released. But his account remained frozen, he said in a statement on his Facebook page.

The account was used only to receive his salary and pension as a public official, and had "nothing to do with matters relating to the investigation conducted with the authorities", he said.

"The undue conduct of the relevant agency and the timing of the freezing of my account is uncalled for," he said.

"Why is my personal liberty been circumvented when the court had already granted me bail pending trial and the fact that I have complied with my bail conditions?"

The MACC did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Najib said freezing his account had made it hard for him to pay bills and perform his role as the head of his family.

"Like any other citizen I deserve to be given access to my personal freedom until my trial is completed," he said.

Najib and his family have come under intense public scrutiny since he lost an election on May 9 to his former mentor-turned-foe, Mahathir Mohamad, who reopened domestic investigations into 1MDB as one of his first acts as prime minister.

Last week, Najib filed lawsuits against three top officials involved in the 1MDB probe, in a bid to quell public criticism over his alleged role in the case. In three civil filings, Najib's lawyers alleged that the head of MACC, Mohd Shukri Abdull, police commercial crimes head Amar Singh and Attorney General Tommy Thomas were prejudiced against him over the course of their investigations.

They did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Only Shukri has commented on the lawsuits, telling local media "let him sue, I will accept it."

1MDB is being investigated by at least six countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, over alleged money laundering and graft.

The U.S. Department of Justice says an estimated $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates. ($1=4.0300 ringgit) (Reporting by Rozanna Latiff and A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Neil Fullick.)

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