PROSECUTORS in Malaysia have charged former premier Najib Razak with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power amid international graft probe into the country’s state fund scandal.
According to the New Straits Times, the criminal breach of trust charges involved the embezzlement of RM27 million (US$6.75 million), RM5 million (US$1.25 million) and RM10 million (US$2.5 million) from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund, while he was serving as Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
The other graft charge involved a payout to himself amounting to RM42 million (US$10 million) for his alleged involvement in the decision to provide government guarantees for an RM4 billion (US$1 billion) loan from Retirement Fund (Incorporated) to SRC International.
Each of the four charges carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years. The charge of using his office or position for gratification also carries a fine of not less than five times the value of gratification.
Najib pled not guilty to three charges of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power, in relation to a suspicious transaction involving SRC International, a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Najib was arrested at his home on Tuesday, less than two months after an unexpected election defeat to a coalition led by his mentor-turned-foe Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Police and anti-graft investigators have revived probes into the fund’s missing billions since his ouster.
Some of Najib’s children were present in the courtroom, including his stepson Riza Aziz who on Tuesday was questioned by anti-graft officers in connection with their 1MDB probe.
Najib, who spent the night in lockup, arrived at 8.20 am at the court complex in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie.
Crowds of media and curious onlookers jostled to catch a glance of the former premier as he was led to a sessions court to face the charges. Some members of Najib’s Umno party chanted and held up placards in solidarity with their former leader.
Earlier, state news agency Bernama broadcast Najib’s convoy live as it moved through morning rush-hour traffic during the long drive from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s offices in the administrative capital Putrajaya to the court in Kuala Lumpur.
The charges are in connection with how RM42 million ringgit (US$10.6 million) went from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, into Najib’s personal bank account.
That is only a fraction of the total amount allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB. The US Department of Justice has said over US$4.5 billion was siphoned from the fund.
SRC is the initial focus of Malaysian investigators as all the suspicious transactions involving the firm were made through Malaysian entities, unlike other 1MDB related transactions that went through foreign banks and companies.
A spokesman for Najib said on Tuesday that the SRC charges and the 1MDB investigations against the former leader were “politically motivated”, and that Najib will contest the charges and clear his name in court.
Dr. Mahathir said in an interview with Reuters last month that embezzlement and bribery with government money were among the charges that Malaysia was looking to bring against Najib, 64, adding that Najib was fully responsible for the 1MDB scandal.
Since his loss at the polls, Najib has been barred from leaving the country and had millions of dollars of items seized from properties linked to his family.
Saya terima bahawa hari ini adalah hari saya dan keluarga menjalani dugaan dunia. pic.twitter.com/UbjGK9GBDb
— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) July 3, 2018
In a pre-recorded message posted on Twitter after his arrest, Najib said he was not perfect and “not all the accusations against me and my family are true.
“Let investigations be carried out. I have not had a chance to defend myself,” he said.
Additional reporting by Reuters