Cheered in Umno last week, Najib and ex-DPM Zahid back in court with big spending revealed

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi are on separate corruption and money laundering trials. PHOTOS: REUTERS, ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR - Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi just last week were feted as leaders who could bring back glory to Umno, but their separate corruption and money laundering trials this week are a climb down to reality for the former prime minister and his deputy, who allegedly spent millions of ringgit on shopping trips.

Najib is on trial for three counts for criminal breach of trust (CBT), one for abuse of power and three for money laundering involving the funds of SRC International, a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), totalling RM42 million (S$13.7 million).

He faces 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power linked to 1MDB, and one charge of tampering with an auditor-general's report on 1MDB.

Zahid is facing 87 charges for CBT involving his Yayasan Akalbudi foundation, money laundering as well as accepting bribes for various projects during his tenure in the Home Ministry.

At the four-day Umno annual assembly that ended last Saturday, Najib and Zahid were cheered repeatedly on stage as the party celebrated four by-election wins this year and closer ties with former arch-enemy Parti Islam SeMalaysia.

This week, the court detailed Najib's lavish spending, including paying US$130,625 (S$177,300) to buy a Chanel watch for his wife Rosmah Mansor's birthday in December 2014, to make up for having to cut short their family vacation in Hawaii.

"I explained the situation to my family and they were upset that I had to leave them immediately and go back to Malaysia. They were disappointed with the decision," he said on Tuesday, adding that he had to return to Malaysia because Kelantan was hit with a terrible flood.

Najib also defended spending more than RM3.2 million in 2014 in Italy on a gift for a former Qatar prime minister.

Najib claimed ignorance when told that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho was managing his personal bank accounts, and said he was "shocked" when he learnt that AmBank Islamic and Low were communicating with each other on handling his finances without his authorisation.

According to news portal Malaysiakini, there were at least 46 instances when the former finance minister said he did not know or had no knowledge on matters pertaining to the SRC International case, based on his written witness statement.

Meanwhile, Zahid had allegedly used the funds raised via his personal charity to pay for the annual road tax and insurance policies for his 20 personal vehicles totalling RM107,509.55.

The court also heard last week that Zahid and his wife Hamidah Khamis had spent almost RM1.3 million between January 2014 and January 2016, including on high-end shopping in the United Arab Emirates, United States and Italy.

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