Ousted Malaysian leader Najib Razak quits as leader of party, barred from leaving country

  • Ousted Malaysian leader Najib Razak quit as leader of his UMNO party and coalition alliance Barisan Nasional on Saturday.
  • Najib was earlier barred from leaving the country, a move which former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed said he carried out to prevent any extradition problems.
  • Najib had lost to Mahathir in this week's general election.
  • Mahathir, who was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, has vowed to investigate a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Najib.
Najib Razak, ousted prime minister of Malaysia speaks during a press conference following his shock loss at the 14th general election May 2018.
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Ousted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak quit as leader of his UMNO party as well as coalition alliance Barisan Nasional on Saturday.

"We all feel sad about what happened but as a party that upholds democratic principles, we accept the people's decision," he said, referring to the stunning defeat of the long-ruling alliance in Wednesday's general election.

This follows news earlier on the same day that he and his wife Rosmah Mansor have been blacklisted from leaving the country, according to immigration authorities.

Najib, 64, lost to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in this week's general election.

Mahathir, who was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, has vowed to investigate a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Najib.

"We are not seeking revenge," he had said. "What we want is to restore the rule of law ... if the law says that Najib has done something wrong, then he will have to face the consequences."

On Saturday, Mahathir said that he was behind the move to prevent Najib from leaving the country, to avoid any extradition problems.

In a tweet following this statement, Najib said that he will respect the government's decision on the ban.

"I have been informed that the Malaysian Immigration Department will not allow my family and me to go overseas," Najib said in the tweet.

"I respect the directive and will remain with my family in the country."

News broke in 2015 that about $700 million allegedly stolen from 1MDB had made its way into Najib's personal bank accounts.

He denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia's attorney-general, even as U.S. authorities alleged that over $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund in a fraud orchestrated by a financier known to be close to Najib and his family.

U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions called the 1MDB scandal "kleptocracy at its worst" and the fund is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Two sources told Reuters on Friday that Mahathir will appoint a finance ministry adviser to oversee the recovery of billions of dollars allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

Najib said earlier on Facebook he accepted responsibility for the election loss, and while on holiday would consider his position as president of the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party and chairman of the routed Barisan Nasional coalition.

Earlier, dozens of people — mostly journalists — gathered at an airport near Kuala Lumpur from where Najib and his wife were reported to be leaving for the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and tried to look into cars entering the complex.

"I'm here to catch the thief," said a man in the crowd, as riot police stood on guard. There was no sign that Najib or Rosmah had come to the airport.