Malaysia’s former PM in the dock

9 Apr 19

A decade after taking the oath as Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak has found himself in the dock on corruption charges.

The disgraced former leader made a brief court appearance in the first of many trials he faces over a multibillion-dollar scandal that toppled his government.

Proceedings at the Kuala Lumpur High Court were adjourned until next week when deliberations will begin in earnest to get to the truth about accusations against him linked to the state fund 1MDB.

Najib faces charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power relating to suspected transfers totalling 42 million ringgit ($10.3m) to his bank account from a former unit of 1MDB.

He founded the state investment vehicle in 2009, ostensibly to develop the economy of the Southeast Asian nation.

It is now the subject of corruption and money laundering investigations in at least six countries, and the US Department of Justice has said about $4.5bn was misappropriated from the fund, reported Reuters.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to the charges over the transfers, which involve a fraction of the $1bn investigators say actually made its way into his accounts. He has consistently denied wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated.

He was defeated in elections in May 2018 as disgust grew over corruption and rising living costs.

Najib and his cronies have been accused of stealing billions from the fund to spend on everything from luxurious properties to artwork and a yacht.

The opulent lifestyle of the former prime minister and his family came to light with the discovery of $300m worth of goods and cash at properties linked to him.

His wife Rosmah Mansor – known for her penchant for designer handbags and jewellery – has also been charged with corruption, and has pleaded not guilty.

How the current government of prime minister Mahathir Mohamad prosecutes the 1MDB case is being seen as a test of his commitment to confront corruption.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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