Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak, was yesterday charged with 17 counts of money laundering and tax evasion, marking a stunning fall for the self-styled former "First Lady" of Malaysia.
It is the first time in Malaysia's history that the wife of a former prime minister has been charged. She pleaded not guilty.
Rosmah had spent Wednesday night in the lockup of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) after being detained at its headquarters.
Najib, the first former Malaysian premier to be charged, was in another court at the complex around the same time yesterday in connection with his own case.
He faces 32 charges involving abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering of funds, mainly linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who ousted Najib in May, said the charges had been filed according to law. "It is not about revenge," he said at a separate event.
Rosmah's arrival at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex in the morning caused a buzz, as she alighted from a black Toyota Vellfire minivan, dressed in a floral orange baju kurung and an orange veil. She waved and smiled broadly on her way to the courtroom.
Rosmah, 66, is facing 17 charges involving cash totalling more than RM7 million (S$2.3 million).
She faces 12 charges over receiving RM7,097,750 in funds from money-laundering activities.
The sum was allegedly deposited into her personal account between Dec 4, 2013 and June 8 last year.
She also faces five charges for failing to declare these gains, which she is required to do under the Income Tax Act 1967.
The charges were read out in Malay before Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi, to which a calm-looking Rosmah said: "Saya mohon bicara (I claim trial)."
Bail was set at RM2 million with two sureties. Rosmah had brought her two passports to court and would surrender them, said her lawyer.
She posted RM500,000 of the bail yesterday, with the remainder to be paid by Thursday next week.
Judge Azura also granted the prosecution's request that Rosmah refrain from contacting any witnesses or potential witnesses.
This comes after lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram claimed that Rosmah had previously approached witnesses.
A police report was also filed after a witness claimed that he had been "disturbed" during the investigation, said the prosecution. Rosmah's lawyer Geethan Ram Vincent told reporters later that she had not been given an opportunity to challenge the claim of witness tampering.
"There was no investigation done on the report and it is pretty much unfounded," he said.
If convicted of the charges, Rosmah faces a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine five times the amount involving the illicit activity, or RM5 million, whichever is higher, for each of the charges. The case will be heard on Nov 8.
Rosmah and Najib later left the court complex together.