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Malaysia ex-PM Najib to face corruption trial in February

AFP  |  Kuala Lumpur 

Former Malaysian Najib Razak's trial on corruption charges related to a massive financial scandal that led to his shock election defeat will start in February, a court said today.

Najib, 65, will stand trial for criminal breach of trust, money laundering and power abuse linked to billions of dollars allegedly looted from sovereign wealth fund

The former leader, who is free on bail, has been hit with seven charges so far, including three for money laundering lodged on Wednesday over claims he pocketed 42 million ringgit (USD 10.3 million) from a former unit of

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. Najib has denied all the charges.

Malaysia's new government, under Najib's 93-year-old former mentor Mahathir Mohamad, is probing the corruption allegations involving -- which was set up and overseen by Najib -- in an audacious fraud that spanned the globe.

Judge set the trial dates from February 12-28 and from March 4-29.

State prosecutors said they expect to call around 50 witnesses. 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 between December 2014 and February 2015.

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

The sums involved are just a fraction of the USD 681 million that was mysteriously transferred to Najib's personal several years ago, sparking uproar in

Najib, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and his allies are accused of using the plundered money to buy everything from US to artworks and a luxury yacht that was recently handed over to

Najib's Abdullah said Wednesday that 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," told reporters.

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 in May, police seized a vast trove of items -- including expensive handbags and jewellery -- from properties linked to him with an estimated value of up to USD 273 million.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, August 10 2018. 17:20 IST