Thu, Jul 05, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Ex-Malaysian PM charged with corruption

AFP, KUALA LUMPUR

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak gestures as he leaves the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was yesterday formally charged with corruption linked to a multibillion-dollar financial scandal that contributed to his shock election defeat less than two months ago.

The first former Malaysian prime minister to appear before a judge, Najib pleaded not guilty to three counts of criminal breach of trust and a separate charge that he abused his position to pocket 42 million ringgit (US$10.4 million)

Each charge could see him jailed for up to 20 years.

The unprecedented court appearance came the day after the 64-year-old was arrested at his luxury home by officers probing how billions of US dollars of state funds disappeared on his watch.

In court, the former leader appeared tired and hung his head often during proceedings.

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 92-year-old former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad.

Yesterday’s court hearing was the latest step in a fast-moving investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Najib, his family and many of his close political and business allies.

After the judge decided on a 1 million ringgit bond and ordered him to surrender his two passports, the ex-leader emerged from the building to chants of “Long live Najib” by about 500 supporters.

“This is the best way to clear my name after so much of slander against me,” Najib told reporters.

He later left in a convoy of five cars escorted by police outriders.

Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas, who leads a 12-member prosecution team, had requested bail of 4 million ringgit in cash, but Najib’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, insisted his client was “not a flight risk.”

Najib and his wife have been barred from leaving the country since May 12.

The court set a tentative date for the trial, beginning in February next year.

“We have a strong prima facie case which we intend to prove in the trial,” Thomas told reporters after the hearing.

“I’m happy we have a good defense,” Najib’s lawyer said. “You’ll see the unfolding of the defense when the trial starts.”

Thomas had to move the venue of his press briefing to a different part of the building after Najib supporters heckled him and demanded that he speak in Malay.

According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, US$10.6 million originating from SRC International Sdn Bhd, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts, a fraction of hundreds of millions of US dollars from the sovereign wealth fund that was allegedly funneled to him.

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