THE Malaysian lawyer leading the defence team for scandal-ridden former prime minister Najib Razak is facing money laundering charges of his own.
According to The Star, officers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) escorted Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to court on Thursday on allegations the lawyer received payments totalling RM9.5 million (US$2.29 million) from Najib between 2013 and 2014.
He allegedly received the money in two tranches – one worth RM4.3 million and a second worth RM5.2 million (US$1.25 million) – in his bank accounts on Sept 13, 2013, and Feb 17, 2014, respectively. The money was purportedly payments made to prosecute opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was at the time appealing convictions on his second sodomy trial, which the latter claimed was “politically motivated”.
Muhammad Shafee is reportedly being charged under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act (AMLA) 2001, the same section of the law used recently against his client Najib.
In denying the allegations, Muhammad Shafee said payments were for legal services rendered to Najib’s party Umno and the then-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
JUST IN : Lawyer Shafee Abdullah pleaded not guilty to four charges under money laundering and income tax offences . The prosecution has asked for bail to be set at RM2.5 million . Lawyer Shafee is the lead counsel in the prosecution case against ex PM Najib Razak pic.twitter.com/uVSdTk30VZ
— Melissa Goh (@MelGohCNA) September 13, 2018
Sources told various local media outlets that Muhammad Shafee was arrested by MACC officers on Wednesday night.
Muhammad Shafee heads the defence team for the former premier who is charged with criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power.
Najib was arrested at his home in July, less than two months after an unexpected election defeat to a coalition led by his mentor-turned-foe Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Since his ouster, police and anti-graft investigators have revived probes into missing billions related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.
The criminal breach of trust charges against Najib involve 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 1MDB, while he was serving as prime minister and finance minister.
The other graft charge involved a payout to Najib 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.
The affidavit by the AGC officer confirming that Shafee Abdullah received a sum of RM9.5mil from former PM Najib Razak. @anwaribrahim had gone to court prior to GE14 over this, alleging these payments existed and had compromised Shafee’s independence. pic.twitter.com/KjlTcrcEEr
— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) September 6, 2018
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 all the charges.
The US Department of Justice has said over US$4.5 billion was syphoned from the fund.