Najib to face corruption trial in February

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Former Malaysian prime minister 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 yesterday.

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 1MDB.

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 (USD10.3 million) from a former unit of 1MDB.

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 former prime minister Najib Razak waves as he arrives for a court appearance at the Duta court complex in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. – AFP

Malaysia’s new government, under Najib’s 93-year-old former mentor Mahathir Mohamad, is probing the corruption allegations involving 1MDB – which was set up and overseen by Najib – in an audacious fraud that spanned the globe.

High Court Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali 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 bank accounts between December 2014 and February 2015.

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

The sums involved are just a fraction of the USD681 million that was mysteriously transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts several years ago, sparking uproar in Malaysia.

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