Malaysia’s ex-premier Najib Razak pleads not guilty to charges over corruption scandal
Posted On July 20, 2020
Najib Razak, Malaysia’s former prime minister, has pleaded not guilty to charges relating to a multi-billion dollar financial scandal after he was arrested from his luxury home in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Tuesday.
Mr Najib, 64, was formally charged in court on Wednesday morning on three counts of criminal breach of trust and a separate charge that he abused his position to pocket $10.6 million (£8m) from SRC International, a unit of the 1Malaysia Development Fund at the heart of international fraud allegations.
Accusations of massive corruption at the 1MDB fund, which was created by Mr Najib, were a major factor behind the electoral earthquake in May that toppled his long-ruling coalition and ushered in a reformist alliance headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad, 92.
Dr Mahathir’s administration was quick to reinstate an investigation into the alleged looting of the state fund. US investigators have claimed that Mr Najib’s associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion (£3.4bn) from the fund between 2009 to 2014, and 1MDB is being probed in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.
Mr Najib has always denied any wrongdoing in relation to the fund. He is now the first ex-premier to appear before a judge and to be charged, and is expected to be freed on bail later on Wednesday after the court allowed a one million ringgit (£187,500) bond.
Each charge could see Mr Najib jailed for up to 20 years, and he has also been ordered to surrender his two Malaysian passports.
In the hours following his arrest, and ahead of his court appearance, a statement declaring his innocence and denouncing the investigation as “politically motivated” appeared on his personal Facebook page.
“Dato Sri Mohd Najib will contest these charges and clear his name in court,” read the statement by an unnamed spokesman, using his honorific title. “Insyallah, the truth will prevail.”
The statement was next to a pre-recorded video address in the local language, Malay, set to emotive music, and showing Mr Najib at home with his family, cradling a smiling child, and praying.
In a translation provided by Channel News Asia, he declared that “I am not perfect, I am only human.”
Profile | Najib Razak
He added: “However, please believe that these accusations levelled against me and my family are not all true.”
The video appeared to have been prepared to be released in the event of his arrest.
“My dear Malaysians, if you are listening to this message, it means that actions have been taken against me,” he said.
“There has been a lot of fake news and images spread, many of them false, convoluted and slanderous. Let investigations be conducted first. I have not had the chance to defend myself,” he explained.
He added that he accepted that “today is the day my family and I face the trials of life.”
Wednesday’s court hearing was the latest step in a quick-moving investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Mr Najib, his family and many of his close political and business allies.
His stepson Riza Aziz is also being questioned by investigators over the alleged misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars belonging to 1MDB to produce Hollywood films, an accusation which he denies.
A tentative date for Mr Najib’s trial has been set for February 2019.
Attorney General Tommy Thomas, who leads a 12-member prosecution team, told the media that "we have a strong prima facie case which we intend to prove in the trial," reported AFP.
"As far as we are concerned we have been fair," Thomas said. "Why should (Najib supporters) suspect we will not give a fair trial?"