KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak pleaded not guilty on Thursday (Sept 20) to 21 counts of money laundering and four counts of abuse of power, the highest number of charges levelled against him so far.
He was slapped with the new charges at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court in connection with the US$681 million (S$933 million) that went into his personal account. The money is believed to be from state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which had debts of over RM50 billion (S$16.5 billion) at its peak.
In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that US$681 million was transferred to Najib's personal bank account. Najib has denied any wrongdoing, saying the funds were a donation from the Saudi royal family and not from 1MDB as claimed.
The 21 counts of money laundering “include nine counts for receiving illegal monies, five counts for using illegal monies and seven counts for transferring illegal monies to other entities”, deputy police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said in a statement earlier.
Bail has been set at RM3.5 million (S$1.2 million) and must be settled in full by next Friday (Sept 28). The first tranche of RM1 million is due on Friday (Sept 21) , with RM500,000 to be posted everyday from next Monday to Friday.
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.
With the charges on Thursday, the former premier now faces a total of 32 charges.
He had appeared in court in July and August, when he received seven charges for criminal breach of trust, bribery and money laundering. He also pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Najib, 65, was charged under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act.
Shafee Abdullah, who was charged last month with money laundering linked to a payment he received from Najib, remains the lead defence counsel.
The prosecution is led by famed retired judge Gopal Sri Ram, who was appointed by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to assist in the criminal case against Najib.
After Pakatan Harapan’s shocking win in the general election on May 9, the authorities began investigating, conducting home searches and bringing charges against Najib in relation to 1MDB.
Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor has been reported by local media as the next likely person in the Razak family to be charged in court. Najib is the first former prime minister to be charged in Malaysia.
His children posted on social media on Wednesday calling for a fair trial.