Najib and ex-Treasury head plead not guilty to criminal breach of trust charges linked to 1MDB

Malaysia's former treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah and former prime minister Najib Razak are jointly charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust involving government funds. PHOTOS: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak and former treasury secretary-general Irwan Serigar Abdullah pleaded not guilty on Thursday (Oct 25) to six charges of criminal breach of trust linked to the 1MDB scandal.

The two men were jointly charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving government funds worth around RM6.6 billion (S$2.19 billion).

The first two charges, involving RM 1.2 billion and RM655 million respectively, were committed on Dec 21 two years ago (2016), according to charges read out in court.

The third charge involved a RM220 million allocation for administration expenses meant for the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and was allegedly committed on Aug 3 last year (2017).

The fourth charge involved a RM1.3 billion allocation for subsidy and cash aids and was allegedly committed on Aug 10 last year (2017).

The fifth and sixth charges, involving 1.95 billion yuan (RM1.261 billion) and RM2 billion respectively, were allegedly committed on Aug 23 and Dec 18 in the same year.

Najib's counsel Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah said the first two charges are "wholly unfounded", adding that the allegations merely involved a "reprioritisation" of the funds. The decision undertaken by Najib and Irwan "was for the good of the nation", the defence lawyer said.

The defence said that the third to sixth charges were related to a payment to IPIC (Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co). "There was no personal benefit. Not a sen was benefitted by my client or anybody else," said Mr Shafee.

In response to lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram's request of RM3 million in bail each for Najib and Irwan, Najib's counsel said his client had already paid RM4.5 million in bail for his previous 32 charges, an amount which could be "highest in the history of Malaysia".

"A bail's only criteria is to ensure his attendance and nothing else. It cannot be punitive. It cannot be oppressive.

"Do we need to oppress him further with an atrocious amount of RM3 million? The quantum of bail should not be set so high," Dr Shafee said in court.

The court set bail at RM1 million each for Najib and Irwan. The two men will pay RM500,000 each later on Thursday, with the remaining RM500,000 within 10 days. The case is set for court mention on Nov 29.

Irwan is the first former civil servant who has been charged in connection with the 1MDB scandal.

Malaysia's former spy agency chief Hasanah Abdul Hamid was also charged on Thursday.

The former director-general of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO) was charged with one count of criminal breach of trust involving US$12.1 million (S$16.7 million) belonging to the Malaysian government.

She pleaded not guilty.

Her case is set for court mention on Nov 29.

More BN officials to be charged, says Mahathir

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said many more will be charged for the offences committed by the erstwhile Barisan Nasional government led by Najib.

"What we are seeing today, of course, are charges being made against several people, but there are many more," said Tun Dr Mahathir during a meeting with the Malaysia Thai Chamber of Commerce (MTCC) representatives on Thursday, The Star reported.

"We can't bring every one to court in one go.

"We have to take (them) one by one, and the more serious one is the former prime minister."

Dr Mahathir said the country suffered for almost nine years as the then government did not seem to care about the people.

"It committed a lot of wrong things. As usual, when you break the law, you face the consequences," he was quoted as saying.

Hasanah's lawyer Shaharudin Ali said that details of how MEIO spends its finances constitute a state secret and should not be discussed in open court as it could jeopardise national security.

"The operations of any intelligence agency should not be discussed lightly in open court as it involves national security," he told a news conference at the court.

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