Najib's 1MDB trial resumes with his stepson Riza Aziz set to testify

Former leader Najib Razak has repeatedly said he plans to go through the court process to clear his name. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - The trial of Malaysia's former leader Najib Razak resumed on Tuesday (May 19), as a settlement deal by his stepson spurred concern over how the new government is handling the 1MDB cases.

Najib's lawyers continued questioning witnesses after the last session in March was adjourned when his defence team said they may have been exposed to the new coronavirus.

Proceedings were then unable to be held as the country imposed lockdown measures that were only eased on May 4.

Prosecutors will add Mr Riza Aziz, one of the producers of "The Wolf of Wall Street" movie and stepson to
Najib, to the list of witnesses for the trial as he has indicated his readiness to testify.

That's after Mr Riza secured a discharge not amounting to acquittal over his own 1MDB-related charges.

The trial involves 25 of the total 42 charges he faces for his alleged role in 1MDB, including accusations that he received RM2.08 billion (S$680 million) of bribes. He was first charged in July 2018.

Much has happened since the last time the trial was convened. Malaysia recouped an additional US$300 million of funds linked to 1MDB as part of US forfeiture lawsuits, amid concern that the return of Najib's party to the government in March might impede ongoing investigations and efforts to track down assets lost from the troubled state fund.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's government has pledged to continue fighting corruption, even as it was met with backlash after Najib's stepson Riza Aziz was discharged, not amounting to acquittal, last week from allegations of receiving US$248.2 million (S$351.8 million) from 1MDB. The agreement with Mr Riza would see Malaysia recover US$107.3 million.

The deal has sparked a dispute between the nation's current and former top prosecutors over whether ex-Attorney General Tommy Thomas had approved the settlement before resigning in March, which he has denied. "I would have never sanctioned this deal," Thomas said in a Monday statement.

Opposition leaders said the decision to discharge Riza gave the impression that Malaysia wasn't serious about battling corruption, they said in a statement on Monday. The case had tarnished the country's image on the global stage, they added.

Najib himself has repeatedly said he plans to go through the court process to clear his name.

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