The former prime minister and his associates are accused of pilfering hundreds of millions of dollars from the state sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak went on trial on Wednesday over the multi-million dollar looting of the state sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
The 65-year-old pleaded not guilty to seven charges of corruption and money laundering.
Attorney General Tommy Thomas said in his opening statement that Najib was in power for nearly a decade: "The accused is not above the law and his prosecution and this trial should serve as precedents for all future holders of this august office," Thomas said.
What is the 1MDB scandal?
Wednesday's trial is the first against Najib, who faces 42 separate charges related to the 1MDB scandal.
The trial centers on $10.3 million (€9.2 million) reportedly stolen from 1MDB subsidiary SRC International that appeared in Najib's bank account.
The sum represents only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars the former prime minister and his associates are accused of having pilfered from the investment fund established to boost Malaysia’s economic development.
US investigators say $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014. Some $700 million from the fund is alleged to have ended up in Najib's own bank account.
The vast sums of wealth were reportedly laundered through the US financial system and used to buy property, art and luxury items.
Many of those involved have been detained and charged in Malaysian courts. However, the suspected kingpin of the 1MDB scandal, financier Jho Low, is still at large.
Malaysia has also charged the US investment banking giant Goldman Sachs and ex-employees with misappropriating billions of dollars in bond proceeds and collecting $600 million in fees.
At least six countries have launched corruption and money laundering investigations into 1MDB.
Fall from power
Public anger over the 1MDB scandal led to Najib's defeat in 2018's May elections, ending nearly 60 years of rule by the Basiran National coalition.
Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled from 1981 to 2003, came out of retirement to spearhead a four-party alliance that once in power reopened investigations into the 1MDB scandal and vowed to retrieve the lost funds.
cw/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)