Ex-PM Najib pleads not guilty, in dock for three hours
Malaysia's former prime minister faces up to 42 criminal charges, most linked to 1MDB
KUALA LUMPUR: Ten years to the day after he was first sworn in as Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak stood trial yesterday for corruption charges linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal that brought down his government.
Najib, in a dark blue suit and matching tie, sat in the dock for nearly three hours before proceedings were adjourned until April 15, reported Reuters.
He faces seven charges: Three counts each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and one count of abuse of power.
They relate to suspected transfers totalling RM42 million (S$13.9 million) to his bank account from SRC International, a state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) unit.
Najib has pleaded not guilty to the charges over the transfers, which involve a fraction of the US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) investigators say made its way into his accounts.
He was described by the Attorney-General yesterday as wielding "near absolute power" in office.
"The accused is not above the law and his prosecution and this trial should serve as precedents," Mr Tommy Thomas said in an opening statement.
It is rare for the Attorney-General to lead the prosecution, and his presence signals the importance the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad attaches to the trial.
Mr Thomas said the prosecution will show Najib used cheques issued from his AmPrivate banking account to pay for home renovation projects in addition to contributions to other Barisan Nasional parties.
In detailing the charges over money laundering against the former prime minister, Mr Thomas also pointed out that Najib's credit card was charged US$130,625 at a designer label Chanel store in Honolulu, Hawaii, reported Malay Mail.
"Evidence will establish that the personal cheques were issued for, among others, payment for renovation works carried out at the accused's residence at 11 Jalan Langgak Duta, Kuala Lumpur, the accused's residence in Pekan, Pahang and cheques issued to various Barisan Nasional component political parties," he said.
After the adjournment, Najib, who was voted out of power last year, left the courthouse smiling, flanked by a score of his supporters chanting "Allahu akbar", or "God is greatest", but he did not speak to reporters.
Lead defence lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said he was confident of winning, Reuters reported.
1MDB, founded by Najib in 2009, is the subject of corruption and money laundering investigations in at least six countries.
The US Department of Justice has said that US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund.
Najib was barred from leaving Malaysia and arrested within two months after the election. He faces a total of 42 criminal charges, most linked to 1MDB and other state entities.
He has consistently denied wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated.
Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, known for her designer handbags and jewellery, has also been charged with corruption.
She has pleaded not guilty.