By Associated Press - Tuesday, August 27, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysian prosecutors Tuesday wrapped up their case against former Prime Minister Najib Razak in his first corruption trial, paving the way for his second court case to begin.

Prosecutors told the High Court that they were resting their case against Najib after questioning 57 witnesses since the trial began April 3. The judge will hear closing arguments from both prosecutors and defense lawyers on Oct. 22 and will rule on Nov. 11 whether Najib should enter his defense.

Najib faces 42 charges of corruption, abuse of power and money laundering in five separate criminal cases linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund that contributed to his shocking election ouster last year.

Najib, 65, denies wrongdoing and accuses Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government of seeking political vengeance.

The seven charges in his first trial specifically relate to the suspicious transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10 million) from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, into Najib’s bank accounts via intermediary companies between 2011 and 2015.

Najib is accused of using his position to receive the money for approving a government guarantee for a government loan to SRC, committing criminal breach of trust and accepting proceeds from unlawful activities.

His lawyers say Najib is the victim of a conspiracy by rogue bankers including one identified by U.S. investigators as the mastermind behind the 1MDB fiasco.

Prosecutors say Najib, who set up 1MDB in 2009, was the real power behind the fund and SRC.

In his second trial due to begin Wednesday, Najib faces four counts of abusing his power to receive a total of 2.3 billion ringgit ($547 million) from 2011 to 2014, and 21 other charges of receiving, using, and transferring illicit funds linked to 1MDB.

The trial could be delayed again as the defense is challenging the government’s appointment of a former senior judge as the chief prosecutor in the case.

Najib set up 1MDB when he took power in 2009 to promote economic development, but the fund amassed billions in debts and is being investigated in the United States and several other countries for alleged cross-border embezzlement and money laundering.

U.S. investigators say more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014, including the money that landed in Najib’s bank accounts. They say the ill-gotten gains were laundered through layers of bank accounts in the United States and other countries to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, art works, jewelry, and other extravagances.

Public anger over the scandal eventually led to the ouster of Najib’s long-ruling coalition in May last year, ushering in the first change of power since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

The new government reopened investigations stifled under Najib and barred him and his wife from leaving the country. Police also seized jewelry and hundreds of handbags and other valuables estimated at more than 1.1 billion ringgit ($264 million) from properties linked to Najib.

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