Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak pleaded not guilty yesterday to 21 counts of money laundering and four counts of abuse of power, the highest number of charges levelled against him so far.
With the new charges, Najib now faces a total of 32 charges over missing funds linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund which he founded and chaired.
"With all the charges against me, it will be a chance for me to clear my name, that I am not a thief," he told reporters outside the court.
The charges filed against Najib at his third court appearance were related to the US$681 million (S$930 million) that went into his personal account. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that the money was transferred to the then Prime Minister in 2013.
The sum, which amounted to RM2.6 billion at that time, is believed to be from 1MDB, which suffered debts of more than RM50 billion (S$16.5 billion) at its peak.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing, saying the funds were a donation from the Saudi royal family.
"The issue of RM2.6 billion has been reused multiple times to criticise and scorn me… Hopefully, the court proceeding would uphold the truth and put to rest this matter," he said.
CHANCE TO CLEAR NAME
With all the charges against me, it will be a chance for me to clear my name, that I am not a thief... The issue of RM2.6 billion has been reused multiple times to criticise and scorn me… Hopefully, the court proceeding would uphold the truth and put to rest this matter.
FORMER MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK
The 65-year-old former leader is out on RM3.5 million bail, to be settled in full by Sept 28.
The case is next set for court mention on Nov 16.
The new charges of money laundering comprise "nine counts of receiving illegal monies, five counts of using illegal monies and seven counts of transferring illegal monies to other entities", deputy police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said in a statement.
The charges mean Najib could face up to 15 years in jail and a fine of not less than five times the value of the proceeds of unlawful activities, or RM5 million, whichever is higher.
For the four counts of abuse of power, he could face a jail term not exceeding 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the value of the gratification in the offence, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
Najib had appeared in court in July and last month to face seven charges of criminal breach of trust, bribery and money laundering. He also pleaded not guilty and was released on RM1 million bail.
The former premier could face more charges, according to de-puty chief commissioner Azam Baki of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Najib's lead defence counsel is well-known lawyer Shafee Abdullah, who was himself charged last week with money laundering after allegedly receiving RM9.5 million from Najib.
"All these claims that he took RM2.6 billion are not true because he returned most of it back to the same account he received (it) from," Shafee said yesterday.
"His return of money was so soon after the 2013 election… because he had finished with the expenses in relation to election funding."
The money belongs to a firm called Tanore Finance, believed to be a shell company in the British Virgin Islands. The United States authorities have said it was used to siphon money from 1MDB.
After Pakatan Harapan's shocking win in the May 9 general election, the authorities began investigating, conducting home searches and bringing charges against Najib.
He is the first former prime minister to be charged in Malaysia.
His wife Rosmah Mansor is reportedly the next likely person in the family to be charged.