Najib orchestrated graft like an 'emperor': Malaysian prosecutor

Published October 22, 2019
File photo of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arriving at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 28. — Reuters
File photo of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arriving at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 28. — Reuters

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak acted like an “emperor” who orchestrated massive fraud at a former unit of scandal-linked state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the country's attorney-general said at his trial on Tuesday.

Malaysian prosecutors have begun wrapping up their first case against the ex-premier, who faces seven charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power linked to alleged transfers of 42 million ringgit ($10.03 million) into his personal bank account from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.

Najib, who co-founded 1MDB in 2009, has also been slapped with 35 other offences linked to losses at 1MDB and other state entities.

He has plead not guilty to all charges.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said in his closing submissions that Najib had misused his positions as prime minister, finance minister and advisor to SRC International to obtain the funds.

“He could veto meetings, he took all decisions, he was the emperor of the company,” Thomas told the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

He said Najib had exercised “ultimate power” to obtain government guarantees on two loans for SRC totalling 4 billion ringgit, which the prosecutor said was mostly misappropriated.

Defence lawyers have said Najib had no knowledge of the transfers into his accounts and that he was misled by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, and SRC's former chief executive, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, both of whom are at large.

Low, who faces charges in the United States and Malaysia over his alleged central role in the 1MDB case, has consistently denied wrongdoing. Nik Faisal has never commented publicly on the case and could not be reached for comment.

Najib's lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, is expected to rebut the prosecutions case on Wednesday, before the case is adjourned. Trial judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali will rule on Nov. 11 on whether to acquit Najib or call for him to enter his defence.

Lifestyle under scrutiny

Allegations of graft at 1MDB fuelled popular anger among Malaysians, who voted Najib's long-ruling coalition out of power in an election last May.

Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, were barred from leaving Malaysia soon after the election loss, and their lifestyle came under scrutiny, with the discovery of nearly $300 million worth of goods and cash at properties linked to him.

Rosmah has also been charged with corruption. She has pleaded not guilty.

In a separate case, Rosmah on Tuesday failed to stop a civil suit brought against her by Lebanese jeweller Global Royalty SAL, which is seeking to claim $14.79 million in jewellery that the company says were in her possession, according to local news reports.

Malaysia has also charged US bank Goldman Sachs for allegedly misleading investors over bond sales totalling $6.5 billion that the bank helped raise for 1MDB. The bank said last week it was in discussions with governmental and regulatory authorities on the possibility of a resolution of investigations relating to 1MDB.

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