Delayed 1MDB-linked graft trial of Najib Razak to start next week

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at the High Court in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on March 21, 2019.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at the High Court in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on March 21, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR • The corruption trial of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on charges linked to a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) will start next week after a delay of nearly two months, his lawyer said yesterday.

The postponement was seen as a blow to the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad which reopened investigations into the alleged theft of US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) from 1MDB after winning elections last May and vowed swift justice.

Originally set to begin on Feb 12, Najib's trial was postponed because of appeals over procedural matters raised in pre-trial hearings.

But a judge reportedly ruled that the trial - related to just a small amount of the total sum allegedly looted - should now proceed, and a prosecutor confirmed it would start on Wednesday.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to seven charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power over a suspected transfer of RM42 million (S$14 million) into his bank account from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.

The trial is the first of several criminal proceedings Najib is expected to face over the scandal, and the sum involved is a fraction of the US$1 billion that investigators allege made its way to his bank accounts.

He faces years in prison if convicted on a total of 42 criminal charges, most of them linked to 1MDB.

 
 

At least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore, have launched money laundering and graft investigations into 1MDB, which was set up by Najib in 2009.

US prosecutors say money stolen from the fund went to buy a private jet, luxury real estate, artwork by Picasso and Monet, as well as jewellery for Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor, who has also been charged.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2019, with the headline 'Delayed 1MDB-linked graft trial of Najib to start next week'. Print Edition | Subscribe