Malaysian ex-PM Najib ordered to enter defence in 1MDB case

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) — A Malaysian High Court judge yesterday ordered former Prime Minister Najib Razak to enter a defence at his first corruption trial linked to the multibillion-dollar looting at the 1MDB state investment fund that helped spur his shocking election ouster last year.

Defence lawyers said Najib was shocked he wasn’t acquitted. He will be the first defence witness to take the stand when the trial resumes on December 3.

High Court Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali said the prosecution had established its case on charges of abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering.

The seven charges relate to MYR42 million that allegedly went into the former Malaysian Prime Minister’s bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund.

The judge said it was clear that Najib, who was also Finance Minister at the time, had “wielded overarching authority and power” in SRC and taken actions for “personal and private interest”. He said prosecution had established an “ingredient of dishonesty” in the fund misappropriation.

Najib’s top lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the judge had chosen a “different interpretation of facts and laws” on the defence arguments. He maintained Najib was a victim of a conspiracy led by fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, identified by United States (US) investigators as the mastermind in the pilfering of over USD4.5 billion from the fund.

“You will hear the true story from the accused. He has to tell his story, his version of what happened in SRC,” Shafee told a news conference. “This is a person who trusted the people around him and these people let him down.”

Najib, 66, denies any wrongdoing and accuses Malaysia’s new government of seeking political vengeance. The former leader, whose father and uncles were the country’s second and third prime ministers respectively, could face years in prison if convicted.

Shafee said whatever verdict is reached, both sides will appeal until the case reaches the top court. It could last many years, “well beyond the next election,” due in 2023, he said.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. PHOTO: AP