After nearly two months of delays, the trial of Najib Razak is set to begin Wednesday on charges that the former Malaysian prime minister took part in a scheme to steal vast sums from a state fund he established a decade ago.
The trial, which marks a milestone in a sprawling financial scandal that became public as early as 2015, is expected to be one of several Najib will face over his alleged role in the misappropriation of approximately $4.5 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which he founded in 2009.
Beginning Wednesday, prosecutors will seek to convict the former head of state on seven of a total 42 charges brought against him, including allegations of bribery, money laundering and criminal breach of trust. The case focuses on the misuse of funds held by SRC International Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of 1MDB.
Najib, who lost a reelection bid in May after nearly a decade in power, has denied allegations that he took part in the scheme. Prosecutors first charged Najib in July with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of abusing his post at SRC, according to New Straits Times.
Allegations of criminality linked to 1MDB arose four years ago, after the ostensibly solvent state fund missed a loan payment of $550 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. The incident prompted Malaysian law enforcement officials to launch a special task force in March of that year to investigate whether 1MDB had served as a front for illicit activity.
Following media reports that nearly $700 million in 1MDB funds had ended up in Najib’s personal bank account, Switzerland’s attorney general opened a criminal investigation into the scandal that August.
Although Malaysia’s then-attorney general cleared Najib of wrongdoing, in part by claiming that the funds had been gifted to the prime minister by Saudi royalty, the US Justice Department filed a series of civil lawsuits in July 2016, accusing Najib of funneling $681 million from a 1MDB bond sale into his account.
Through a “global labyrinth of multi-layered financial transactions,” Najib and his co-conspirators laundered the money by investing it in a 300-foot yacht, high-end real estate, artwork, jewelry and the production of the film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the department said.
According to Malaysia’s finance ministry, the state fund lost a total of $10 billion during Najib’s time in office.
Photo: Firdaus Latif
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