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1MDB trial in Malaysia
Image: Reuters/L. Seng Sin

Biggest 1MDB trial against Malaysia ex-PM Najib starts

August 28, 2019

Prosecutors painted a picture of massive corruption and abuse of power. The second trial is the biggest out of five the former prime minister will face.


Malaysian prosecutors said Wednesday former Prime Minister Najib Razak stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the 1MDB state investment fund and abused his power to cover up corruption.

On the opening day of the second trial into the 1MDB scandal, chief prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram described how complex financial transactions between 2011 and 2014 enabled Najib to "to obtain gratification for himself."

Malaysian and US authorities allege about $4.5 billion (€5 billion) was siphoned off from the fund established by Najib in 2009 to promote economic development.

When the scandal first broke in 2015, Najib and his inner circle were put under enormous pressure. The attorney general later cleared Najib of any crime, saying that the $681 million in his bank account was donated by Saudi princes ahead of 2013 elections and most of it was returned.

Gopal accused the disgraced former prime minister of abusing his power to throttle an investigation.

"He interfered with the course of investigation of the case which has come to be known as the 1MDB scandal. He took active steps to effect a coverup of his criminal acts," Gopal told the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

He told the court that prosecutors would show fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, was Najib's "alter ego" and that the two cooperated in the scam and coverup.

"If you place the accused before a mirror, you will see Jho Low. And if you place Jho Low before a mirror, you will see the accused," Gopal said.

Najib was voted out of office last year amid public anger at the scandal. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has vowed to prosecute those involved and recover the stolen funds. Najib claims he is innocent and the trails are political revenge.

Najib faces 42 charges of corruption, abuse of power and money laundering in five separate criminal cases linked to the 1MDB scandal.

The trail that began on Wednesday is the second but most significant. Najib faces four counts of abuse of power and 21 other charges of receiving, using and transferring illicit funds to pilfer 2.3 billion ringgit ($546 million) from 1MDB  between 2011 to 2014.

On Tuesday, prosecutors finished their arguments in the first trial that started five months ago. That trial involves seven charges linked to the transfer of money from a former 1MDB subsidiary to Najib's bank accounts. A judge will decide on November 11 whether to acquit him or call on him to enter his defense.

cw/ng (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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