Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

Malaysian ex-PM Najib due to go on trial over corruption linked to 1MDB

The hearing was originally set for February 12, but was pushed back by Mr Najib's lawyers

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak faces a money laundering trial on Wednesday linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. EPA
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak faces a money laundering trial on Wednesday linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. EPA

Ten years to the day after he was sworn in, former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is to go on trial on Wednesday accused of corruption linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal that brought down his government.

Mr Najib faces seven charges in the first of several criminal proceedings he is due to face over suspected money laundering of $4.5 billion from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB.

The trial relates to claims of transfers totalling 42 million ringgit (Dh38m) into the former Malaysian leader's bank account from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.

Mr Najib has pleaded not guilty to three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering and one of abuse of power over the transfers, which involve a fraction of the $1 billion investigators allege made its way into his accounts.

The former leader has denied wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas is expected to deliver the prosecution's opening statement at Kuala Lumpur High Court, Bernama state news agency reported.

Prosecutors are prepared to call more than 60 witnesses and three of them, described as government and banking officials, could take the stand on Wednesday.

The trial was set to begin on February 12 but was delayed pending appeals by Mr Najib's lawyers. On Monday, they asked the highest court to review its decision to lift the stay on the trial.

The review will be heard on Thursday by the Federal Court, although it was unclear whether it would delay proceedings on Wednesday.

Prosecutor V Sithambaram said it was up to the High Court judge to decide whether the trial should be delayed pending the review.

The trial begins nearly a year after Malaysians voted Mr Najib out of office in a general election, marked by public disgust over corruption and rising living costs, which surprisingly brought Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 93, back to power.

Since losing the election, Mr Najib has been hit with 42 criminal charges, most of them linked to 1MDB and other state entities. Nearly $300m worth of goods and cash were found after the election at properties linked to him.

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

As the trial date neared, Mr Najib, Malaysia's sixth prime minister, sought a radical change of image, portraying himself as a victim of a vindictive government and trying to shed the image of a wealthy, elite politician.

Updated: April 3, 2019 01:07 PM

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