Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Former Malaysian PM Najib hit with money-laundering charges



Former Malaysian PM Najib hit with money-laundering charges

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak (centre) leaves Duta court complex in Kuala Lumpur on August 8. AFP

Former Malaysian PM Najib hit with money-laundering charges

Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak was hit with new charges on Wednesday linked to a multi-billion-dollar financial scandal that contributed to his shock election defeat in May.

Appearing at a court in Kuala Lumpur, Najib was charged with three counts of money-laundering over claims he pocketed 42 million ringgit ($10.3 million) from a former unit of scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

These are in addition to the charges he faced last month after he was first arrested – three for criminal breach of trust and a separate count that he abused his position to take the money.

The 65-year-old, who is free on bail, has denied all the charges.

Malaysia’s new government is probing allegations that billions of dollars were looted from 1MDB, which was set up and overseen by Najib, in an audacious fraud that spanned the globe.

Allegations of massive corruption were a major factor behind the electoral earthquake in May that toppled Najib’s long-ruling coalition and ushered in a reformist alliance headed by his 93-year-old former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.

In a packed courtroom, the three new charges were read out to Najib. Asked if he understood them, Najib – dressed in a dark blue suit and looking tired – said he did.

His case was transferred to another court, where he entered not guilty pleas, meaning he will stand trial. Trial dates will be fixed on Friday, the judge said.

‘Long live Najib’

As he left court, a handful of supporters shouted “long live Najib” while his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the toppled leader believed the case was driven by politics.

“I am confident of a fair trial for my client, but my client thinks this is a political prosecution,” he told reporters.

Najib is facing a long time behind bars if found guilty – the money-laundering charges carry maximum jail terms of 15 years each, while the other four charges carry sentences of 20 years each.

The money-laundering charges allege 42 million ringgit stemming from illegal activities was transferred to Najib’s bank accounts between December 2014 and February 2015.

All the charges relate to fund transfers from SRC International, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB.

The sums involved are just a fraction of the $681 million that was mysteriously transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts several years ago, sparking uproar in Malaysia.

The then attorney general – who had ties to Najib’s party – cleared the leader of wrongdoing, and said that the money had been a donation from the Saudi royal family.

Najib, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and his allies are accused of plundering billions of dollars from 1MDB to buy everything from US real estate to artworks.

The US Department of Justice, which is seeking to recover items allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB cash in America, estimates that $4.5 billion in total was looted from the fund.

Following Najib’s election loss, police seized a vast trove of items – including expensive handbags and jewellery – from properties linked to him with an estimated value of up to $273 million.

Investigations into 1MDB have been moving swiftly. On Tuesday, a luxury yacht allegedly paid for with about $250 million stolen from 1MDB arrived outside Kuala Lumpur after being handed over by Indonesian authorities, who impounded it following a DoJ request.

The 300-foot (90-metre) Equanimity, kitted out with a pool and helicopter landing pad, was allegedly bought by playboy financier Jho Low, a friend of Najib’s family who was said to exert great influence over 1MDB.

Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor led a life of luxury, allegedly funded by stolen public money, that came to symbolise the rot in an elite that had ruled the country uninterrupted since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and