Third criminal trial against former Malaysian PM Najib launched in 1MDB scandal

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (centre) arrives for his trial at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 18, 2019.
Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (centre) arrives for his trial at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 18, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (DPA) - A third criminal trial involving former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak for allegedly tampering with the final audit report of a multi-billion-dollar sovereign wealth fund known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) kicked off in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (Nov 18).

Najib, 66, was charged on Dec 12 last year with using his position as then prime minister to order amendments to the 2016 final audit of 1MDB before it was tabled to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), to avoid any disciplinary action against him.

1MDB is the subject of an international graft probe spanning multiple countries - including Singapore, Switzerland and the United States - over suspicions that an estimated US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) of public money had been siphoned off by high-ranking Malaysian officials like Najib.

The trial will also see 1MDB former chief executive officer Arul Kanda standing trial for abetting Najib in making amendments to the report.

Najib appeared at the High Court dressed in a tan suit, white shirt and a brown tie, the state news agency Bernama reported.

Last week, he had attempted to apply for a postponement of the audit tampering trial at the eleventh hour.

The start of a new trial "would deprive me and my legal team the opportunity of adequately and effectively preparing my defence case", he said in an affidavit to the court.

Najib had been ordered to enter his defence in a separate trial over seven charges of money laundering, corruption and criminal breach of trust for a sum totalling US$10 million from SRC International, a subsidiary of 1MDB.

Judge Mohamed Zainal dismissed the application on the grounds that it was difficult to find alternative dates for the current trial, noting that ample notice and reasonable time had been given.