Trial hears Malaysia's Najib Razak plundered cash for Chanel luxuries

World | 3 Apr 2019 7:13 pm

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak sat in the dock today at the start of his corruption trial, with the chief prosecutor alleging he wielded “near absolute power” for nearly a decade during which he stands accused of pilfering millions of dollars from the 1MDB state investment fund.

“The accused is not above the law and his prosecution and this trial should serve as precedents for all future holders of this august office,” Attorney General Tommy Thomas said in his opening statement.

The trial was originally due to start in February but was delayed by procedural matters. Najib’s lawyers on Wednesday filed an urgent motion to challenge the charges, which include criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power. The High Court judge said he will hear the application at a later date and ordered the trial to proceed.

Ten years ago today, Najib became Malaysia’s sixth prime minister but anger over the 1MDB scandal led to his spectacular electoral loss last May. U.S. investigators say more than US$4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014. They say the ill-gotten gains were laundered through layers of bank accounts in the U.S. and other countries to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, art works, jewelry and other extravagances.

Some US$700 million from the fund that Najib set up for Malaysia’s economic development allegedly landed in his own bank account.

According to Thomas, Najib was the real power behind 1MDB and its fully owned subsidiary SRC “in directing and managing their affairs” instead of the board of directors. Thomas told the court that evidence will show that part of the 42 million ringgit (US$10.3 million) funneled from SRC was used by Najib for a shopping spree at Chanel in Honolulu, renovation works at two of his private homes and also disbursed to political parties in the then ruling coalition.

One of only a few Southeast Asian leaders to be arraigned after losing office, Najib, 65, has denied any wrongdoing.

Wearing a dark blue blazer and tie, Najib smiled when he arrived at the court building and bowed his head in prayer with his supporters.

The trial is the first of several against Najib, who has been charged with 42 counts in one of Malaysia’s biggest criminal proceedings. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, also has been charged with money laundering and tax evasion linked to 1MDB. She has also pleaded not guilty and her trial has not been set.

The first witness, an official with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, took the stand Wednesday. He testified about the directorship and records of SRC and two other companies used as intermediaries to channel the fund to Najib’s bank account.

The trial will resume April 15.-AP

 

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