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Najib pleads not guilty to 25 new charges linked to US$681m in 1MDB case

Najib bloomberg pic.jpg
Malaysian prosecutors charged Najib with four counts of abuse of power regarding an amount of RM2.3 billion ($760.8 million) in state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia’s former premier Najib Razak pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 21 counts of money laundering and four counts of abuse of power, the most number of charges levelled against him so far.

He was slapped with the new charges at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court in connection with the US$681 million (S$933 million) that went into his personal account. The money is believed to be from state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which had debts of over RM50 billion (S$16.5 billion) at its peak.

The 21 counts of money laundering “ include nine counts for receiving illegal monies, five counts for using illegal monies and seven counts for transferring illegal monies to other entities”, deputy police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said in a statement earlier.

The charges mean Najib could face up to 15 years in jail and a fine of not less than five times the value of the proceeds of unlawful activities, or RM5 million, whichever is higher.

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For the four counts of abuse of power, he could face a jail term not exceeding 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the value of the gratification in the offence, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

With the charges on Thursday, the former premier now faces a total of 32 charges.

He had appeared in court in July and August, when he received seven charges for criminal breach of trust, bribery and money laundering. He also pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Najib, 65, was charged under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act.

Shafee Abdullah, who was charged last month for money laundering linked to a payment he received from Najib, remains the lead defence counsel.

The prosecution is led by famed retired judge Gopal Sri Ram, who was appointed by Attorney General Tommy Thomas to assist in the criminal case against Najib.

After Pakatan Harapan’s shocking win in the general election on May 9, the authorities began investigating, conducting home searches and bringing charges against Najib in relation to 1MDB.

Najib, however, has maintained that the US$681 million transferred into his personal account was a donation from a Saudi prince.

He even posted photos of letters and bank transactions on his Facebook page.

His wife Rosmah Mansor has been reported by local media as the next likely person in the Razak family to be charged in court. Najib is the first former prime minister to be charged in Malaysia.

His children posted on social media on Wednesday calling for a fair trial.

THE STRAITS TIMES

REUTERS