Malaysian police raid ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak’s house

Police arrive at former prime minister Najib Razak's residence in Kuala Lumpur. (Reuters)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Malaysian police raid ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak’s house

  • More than a dozen police vehicles arrived at Najib’s house shortly after he returned home from prayers at a nearby mosque
  • Mahathir has reopened a probe into the 1MDB scandal after his alliance won a stunning election victory last week, ousting Najib and ending the National Front’s 60-year grip on power

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysian police visited former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s house late Wednesday, reportedly searching for documents as part of a renewed probe into a massive corruption scandal involving a state investment fund that is being investigated abroad.
More than a dozen police vehicles arrived at Najib’s house shortly after he returned home from prayers at a nearby mosque, fueling speculation that he may be arrested after new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that he could be charged soon over the 1MDB fund fiasco.
Commercial crime director Amar Singh Ishar Singh told local media that police were searching for evidence in an ongoing probe and that it was being carried out at five locations belonging to or linked to Najib. He declined to give details. Police officials couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
The national Bernama news agency cited sources as saying that the police were searching for documents related to 1MDB and that raids occurred simultaneously at the prime minister’s office, the prime minister’s official residence and an upscale condominium in the city.
Mahathir has not yet moved into the prime minister’s office or residence. He reopened a probe into the 1MDB scandal after his alliance won a stunning election victory last week, ousting Najib and ending the National Front’s 60-year grip on power. Najib started the fund in 2009 and US investigators say at least $4.5 billion was stolen and laundered by Najib’s associates, some of which landed in his bank account.
Earlier Wednesday, Mahathir said the government will make arrests as soon as there is clear evidence and reiterated that there will be “no deal” for Najib in the scandal.
Mahathir, 92, said an initial investigation showed the scale of wrongdoing by Najib’s administration was more serious than expected.
Mahathir said he has met with ousted Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, who said he had been preparing to file criminal charges against Najib when he was abruptly removed in 2015. Gani led an investigation by multiple agencies into the scandal at the time, which was later closed after Najib was cleared of wrongdoing.
Mahathir said the government will seek to retrieve billions of dollars laundered from 1MDB to repay government debts that have piled up over the years.
“The focus on corruption is important because we need to get back money which is still in Switzerland, the US, Singapore and maybe Luxembourg. For this, we will contact the governments of the countries to recover the money there,” Mahathir said.
“The money belongs to Malaysia and it came from 1MDB. We will appeal for the money to be returned to Malaysia.”
He said the government is also committed to repaying any debts linked to the fund that it has guaranteed.
Najib and his wife have been barred from leaving Malaysia. The government has also told the current attorney general, who cleared Najib of wrongdoing in 2016, to go on leave, and has relieved the country’s treasury chief, who is also the 1MDB chairman, of his duties.
Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until in 2003, emerged from retirement to join hands with former political foes to oust Najib amid anger over the 1MDB scandal. He said his new government is also seeking to cut wastage in the government, including possibly axing 17,000 political appointees.
The finance ministry said in a statement Wednesday that a 6 percent goods and services tax introduced by Najib in 2016 to boost government revenues will be abolished June 1. The tax has been blamed for raising the cost of living and has angered many Malaysians.
After being sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister last Thursday, Mahathir moved swiftly to name new finance, home affairs and defense ministers but has not appointed a full Cabinet amid horse trading among his four-party alliance for posts. He said he hoped this week to have a 10-member Cabinet before expanding it later but acknowledged it was a challenge navigating his alliance.
“It is difficult. It is time consuming and energy consuming and I don’t get much sleep but I have to do it because they appointed me as prime minister. I cannot complain very much,” he said.


Amazon urged not to sell facial recognition tool to police

Updated 24 min 8 sec ago
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Amazon urged not to sell facial recognition tool to police

  • Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom
  • Amazon's technology isn't that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies

SEATTLE: Amazon’s decision to market a powerful face recognition tool to police is alarming privacy advocates, who say the tech giant’s reach could vastly accelerate a dystopian future in which camera-equipped officers can identify and track people in real time, whether they’re involved in crimes or not.
It’s not clear how many law enforcement agencies have purchased the tool, called Rekognition, since its launch in late 2016 or since its update last fall, when Amazon added capabilities that allow it to identify people in videos and follow their movements almost instantly.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon has used it to quickly compare unidentified suspects in surveillance images to a database of more than 300,000 booking photos from the county jail — a common use of such technology around the country — while the Orlando Police Department in Florida is testing whether it can be used to single out persons-of-interest in public spaces and alert officers to their presence.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates on Tuesday asked Amazon to stop marketing Rekognition to government agencies, saying they could use the technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.”
That could have potentially dire consequences for minorities who are already arrested at disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally or political protesters, they said.
“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” the groups wrote in a letter to Amazon on Tuesday. “Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom.”
In an emailed statement, Amazon Web Services stressed that it requires all of its customers to comply with the law and to be responsible in the use of its products.
The statement said some agencies have used the program to find abducted people, and amusement parks have used it to find lost children. British broadcaster Sky News used Rekognition to help viewers identify celebrities at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend.
Amazon’s technology isn’t that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies. But its vast reach and its interest in recruiting more police departments — at extremely low cost — are troubling, said Clare Garvie, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center.
“This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces,” Garvie said.
While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric measurement — more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there, she said.
Some police departments, including Seattle, have policies that bar the use of real-time facial recognition in body camera videos.
Amazon released Rekognition in late 2016, and the sheriff’s office in Washington County, west of Portland, became one of its first law enforcement agency customers.
A year later, deputies were using it about 20 times a day — for example, to identify burglary suspects in store surveillance footage. Last month, the agency adopted policies governing its use, noting that officers in the field can use real-time face recognition to identify suspects who are unwilling or unable to provide their own ID, or if someone’s life is in danger.
“We are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street corner,” said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “We want our local community to be aware of what we’re doing, how we’re using it to solve crimes — what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not.”
It cost the sheriff’s office just $400 to load 305,000 booking photos — which are already public records — into the system and $6 a month in fees to continue the service, according to an email obtained by the ACLU under a public records request.
Last year, the Orlando, Florida, Police Department announced it would begin a pilot program relying on Amazon’s technology to “use existing city resources to provide real-time detection and notification of persons-of-interest, further increasing public safety.”
Orlando has a network of public safety cameras, and in a presentation posted to YouTube this month , Ranju Das, who leads Amazon Rekognition, said the company would receive feeds from the cameras, search them against photos of people being sought by law enforcement and notify police of any hits.
“It’s about recognizing people, it’s about tracking people, and then it’s about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers ... can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening,” he said.
The Orlando Police Department said in an email that it “is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time.”
The testing has been limited to eight city-owned cameras and a handful of officers who volunteered to have their images used to see if the technology works, Sgt. Eduardo Bernal wrote in an email Tuesday.
“As this is a pilot and not being actively used by OPD as a surveillance tool, there is no policy or procedure regarding its use as it is not deployed in that manner,” Bernal wrote.
The privacy advocates’ letter to Amazon followed public records requests from ACLU chapters in California, Oregon and Florida. More than two dozen organizations signed it, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch.