1MDB scam: Former Malaysian PM to face more charges

Bangkok, Feb 8 (IANS) | Publish Date: 2/8/2019 12:25:13 PM IST

A court in Malaysia on Friday charged former Prime Minister Najib Razak with three more counts of money laundering linked to a corruption scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Najib, 66, was accused of accepting 47 million ringgit ($11.5 million) in 2014, according to the Bernama agency. The former Prime Minister had pleaded not guilty to the new accusations, which took the total number of charges filed against him to 42, since he was voted out of power in May last year, Efe news reported. The trial over the first seven charges is scheduled to begin on Tuesday next week. Malaysians are following this case closely as this is for the first time that a top national leader will be defending himself against criminal charges even as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s campaign against corruption gathered steam.

The 93-year-old had vowed to crackdown on corruption and punish the guilty in the 1MDB scandal. He had also launched a National Anti-Corruption Plan on January 29, urging citizens and officials to stay away from corruption and promising graft-free governance. Najib, who had repeatedly denied any role in the scandal, had lost the May 9 elections last year against an opposition coalition headed by Mahathir.

Najib was the Prime Minister of Malaysia since 2009, the year he created 1MDB as a state investment fund dedicated to attract investment projects and beneficial developments for the country. The 1MDB corruption scandal was revealed in 2015 by an investigation carried out by The Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report that revealed the diversion of 2.6 billion ringgit ($681 million at the time) to his private accounts.

Najib claimed that the money was a donation from a Saudi prince, and the prosecution, the Anti-Corruption Commission along with the fund exonerated him of any crime.

The US Department of Justice estimates that about $4.5 billion was diverted from 1MDB, $1 billion of which may have been laundered in the country with the purchase of real estate, yachts, jewellery and works of art among other goods.

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