KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s second corruption trial started yesterday, with a prosecutor alleging he pilfered billions of dollars from the 1MDB state investment fund through an “elaborate charade” and then sought to cover his tracks.
Chief prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said in his opening remarks that the prosecution would show how Najib took steps to channel 1MDB money into his accounts using a “circuitous route” to prevent detection of the source of the funds and then later pretending that the fund was donated by an Arab prince.
He told the High Court yesterday that prosecutors will also show that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, was Najib’s “alter ego” and that the two acted as one in the scam. Low, 37, has been charged in both the United States (US) and Malaysia for his alleged role as the mastermind in the 1MDB scandal.
“An elaborate charade was employed. It was acted out in four phases in which several characters played a part but it was the accused who played the pivotal role. His objective was to enrich himself,” Sri Ram said.
“The prosecution will prove that the accused, by his words and conduct, made it clear to 1MDB’s officers, its board and others that Jho Low was his alter ego. In truth, Jho Low was the accused’s mirror image.”
Najib faces 42 charges of corruption, abuse of power and money laundering in five separate criminal cases linked to the 1MDB scandal that contributed to his shocking electoral defeat last year.
Najib, 66, denies wrongdoing and accuses Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government of seeking political vengeance.
His first trial, involving seven charges linked to transfer of funds from a former 1MDB unit to Najib’s bank accounts, ended on Tuesday after five months. The judge will rule November 11 on whether to acquit him or call his defence.
In the second trial, Najib faces four counts of abusing his power to receive a total of 2.3 billion ringgit (USD546 million) from 2011 to 2014, and 21 other charges of receiving, using, and transferring illicit funds linked to 1MDB.
He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of abuse of power and up to five years for each of the 21 money laundering charges.