KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak's corruption trial involving the illegal transfers of RM2.28 billion (S$750 million) into his personal bank accounts kicked off on Wednesday (Aug 28) with the prosecution saying that he had abused his powers to enrich himself.
The prosecution said that he had placed himself in "sole control of important matters" at state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) so that he could misappropriate the money and cover up the theft.
In his opening speech, lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said Najib had abused his position as chairman of 1MDB and that of prime minister and minister of finance to do "certain acts" and to exert influence over the board of 1MDB to carry out certain abnormal transactions with undue haste.
"In short, he was its plenipotentiary," he said, adding that there were four phases to the transaction that resulted in billions of dollars ending up in the former leader's personal bank accounts.
The former PM is facing 21 counts of money laundering and four counts of abuse of power for receiving illegal transfers totalling RM2.28 billion between 2011 and 2014.
Najib, whose Barisan Nasional ruling coalition lost power in the elections last year, has maintained that he is innocent and said the charges are politically motivated.
The prosecution also named fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, as "an important character" in the case, saying that he colluded with Najib in carrying out the illegal transfers of money.
"The prosecution will prove that the accused (Najib) by his words and conduct made it clear to 1MDB's officers, its board and others that Jho Low was his alter ego. In truth, Jho Low was the accused's mirror image."
"The prosecution will establish facts which will give rise to an irresistible inference that Jho Low and the accused acted as one at all material times," he added.
Low, who faces criminal charges in Malaysia and the United States over his alleged central role in the 1MDB case, has consistently denied wrongdoing and his whereabouts are unknown.
To date, 1MDB has been investigated by 10 countries, including Singapore, for alleged money laundering and graft.
The United States Department of Justice has alleged that more than US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) was misappropriated from 1MDB and about US$700 million of that ended up in Najib's personal bank accounts.
The case has been adjourned to Thursday morning.
Najib's first trial for corruption in the misappropriation of RM42 million (S$13.9 million) from a former subsidiary of 1MDB concluded on Tuesday, with the High Court to decide on Nov 11 if he has a case to answer.