KUALA LUMPUR - Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak pleaded not guilty to three charges of money laundering on Wednesday (Aug 8).
He was charged with receiving a total of RM42 million (S$14.1 million) as proceeds of illegal activities between December 2014 and February 2015.
Each charge is punishable by up to 15 years' jail and a fine of not less than five times the proceeds of the illegal activity.
The charges were read out in a Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur and the case was transferred to the High Court, where Najib, 65, pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
The former premier was accused of receiving RM27 million, RM5 million and RM10 million into his bank accounts in three separate transactions. All three amounts were the proceeds of illegal activities, according to the charges.
The first and second offences were allegedly committed at AmIslamic Bank at Jalan Raja Chulan in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 26, 2014, and the third offence was allegedly committed at the same place on Feb 10, 2015.
It is his second appearance in a Malaysian court since he was defeated in national elections in May.
On July 4, Najib was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power over funds totalling RM42 million belonging to SRC International, a former subsidiary of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released after posting RM1 million bail. The fresh charges on Wednesday, which relate to the same funds from SRC International, will be heard together with the July case. No additional bail was requested.
The trial dates will be set on Friday (Aug 10).
The court will also hear Najib's application for a permanent gag order to prevent public discussion of the merits of the case on Friday. The interim gag order that was issued on July 4 continues until then.
Najib is the first Malaysian prime minister to face criminal charges.
Najib left without saying anything, but a group of about 20 supporters outside the court chanted “Hidup Najib” (Long Live Najib) and “Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) as he departed the building.
Earlier in court, Najib’s lead defence lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah argued there was no good reason to change the judge hearing Najib’s case. He said that if the judge recused himself, it should have been done in open court.
On Aug 2, Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali replaced the original judge slated to hear the case, Justice Mohd Sofian Abd Razak. This switch took place after calls for Justice Sofian to recuse himself because his brother is a leader in Umno, the party formerly helmed by Najib, in Najib’s home state of Pahang.
“You do not promote justice by doing this behind closed doors,” Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee told reporters outside the courtroom. He added that no one had applied for the judge to be transferred out from the case.
In comments carried by Agence France-Presse, Mr Shafee also said the toppled leader believed the case was driven by politics.
“I am confident of a fair trial for my client, but my client thinks this is a political prosecution,” he told reporters.