Fresh charges against Najib over 1MDB kickbacks unlikely

Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak already faces three trials involving one of the world's biggest financial scandals.
Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak already faces three trials involving one of the world's biggest financial scandals.PHOTO: REUTERS

Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak received kickbacks on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) bonds issued by Goldman Sachs in 2012 and 2013, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said.

But Malaysia's public prosecutors look unlikely to file fresh charges against Najib, who already faces three trials involving one of the world's biggest financial scandals.

A source from the Attorney-General's Chambers told The Straits Times: "No further charges at the moment."

The Malaysiakini news portal on Wednesday cited a "cease and desist order" for proceedings against former Goldman Sachs executive Tim Leissner, after he made a settlement offer for the charges against him.

Leissner had helped to raise US$6.5 billion (S$8.8 billion) for 1MDB via three bond transactions, purportedly in aid of projects to benefit Malaysians, said the SEC.

But "Leissner and others instead planned and executed a scheme to misappropriate more than US$2.7 billion and distribute the money as bribes and kickbacks to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, including but not limited to Najib, as well as to other participants in the scheme and their families, including Leissner".

The United States Department of Justice said Najib received US$30 million in 2012; a further US$681 million was misappropriated in 2013.

There were additional transactions, including "transferring approximately US$1.3 million to the account of a New York jeweller to pay for jewellery for the spouse of Najib," said the SEC. It was referring to 27 18K gold necklaces and bracelets which fugitive businessman Jho Low had allegedly bought for Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor.

These claims could add pressure to Najib, who is facing three ongoing trials. The first is over charges of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering involving RM42 million (S$13.7 million) from 1MDB subsidiary SRC International.

 
 
 
 

The second involves 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power involving RM2.28 billion belonging to 1MDB. The third is on the charge of tampering with the auditor-general's final report on 1MDB.

Adding to his woes is an explosive allegation this week by former bodyguard Azilah Hadri that Najib had given him the kill order in the murder of a Mongolian national in 2006. Najib has vowed to clear his name over the death of Ms Altantuya Shaariibuu by taking a religious oath after Friday prayers today.

Democratic Action Party stalwart Lim Kit Siang had asked if he would be willing to take a similar oath to deny that he received the kickbacks.

Najib said on Facebook: "Yes, but my lawyer tells me that I have taken an oath on this. That is why I am still in the process of giving my sworn statement in court."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2019, with the headline 'Fresh charges against Najib over 1MDB kickbacks unlikely'. Print Edition | Subscribe