KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia's ex-prime minister Najib
Razak played a pivotal role in plundering the state's 1MDB fund and
channelled hundreds of millions of dollars into his own bank account, a
prosecutor said Wednesday at the opening of his most significant graft trial.
Claims that Najib and his cronies pilfered massive sums from the fund and
spent it on everything from real estate to artwork contributed to the defeat
of his long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance.
After losing power last year, the former prime minister was arrested and
hit with dozens of charges related to 1MDB. He is expected to face several
The first started in April but Wednesday's is the biggest, with Najib
accused of 21 counts of money-laundering and four of abuse of power, centring
on allegations that he illicitly obtained 2.28 billion ringgit ($540 million)
Opening the trial, lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the High Court in
Kuala Lumpur that Najib was a key player in the plunder of 1Malaysia
Development Berhad, a fund established with the ostensible aim of boosting
His objective was to enrich himself, the prosecutor told the packed
courtroom, as he outlined a series of complex financial transactions between
2011 and 2014 he said were used to funnel cash to Najib.
Najib � who was also finance minister � put himself in sole control of
the fund's important affairs and used his position to exert influence over
the board of 1MDB to carry out certain abnormal transactions with undue
Gopal said the former premier was the mirror image of fugitive financier
Jho Low, who has been charged in both Malaysia and the United States.
Jho Low and the accused acted as one at all material times, he said. Low
held no official positions at 1MDB but was believed to have exerted huge
influence over its operations.
In addition, Najib took active steps to evade justice. He interfered with
the course of investigation of this case, Gopal said.
� Crucial part of 1MDB saga �
The 66-year-old, who was in court for the start of the trial, denies all
The case relates to a crucial part of the 1MDB saga.
When reports surfaced in 2015 that huge sums linked to the fund had flowed
into Najib's bank account, it dramatically ratcheted up pressure on the
leader and his inner circle.
The attorney-general later cleared Najib of any wrongdoing, saying the
money was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family, and closed down
As allegations surrounding the fund multiplied, Najib became increasingly
authoritarian, jailing political opponents and introducing laws that critics
said were aimed at stifling dissent.
Prosecutors plan to call about 60 witnesses in a trial that is likely to be
lengthy and complex but Najib's lawyers have complained they have not had
sufficient time to prepare for such a major case.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case Tuesday in Najib's first trial, which
involves the theft of 42 million ringgit from a former unit of 1MDB. The
judge will rule in November whether it is strong enough to continue.
The new government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Najib's mentor-
turned-nemesis, came to power partly on a pledge to probe 1MDB and has been
keen to push ahead with the cases against the toppled leader.
The US Department of Justice, which is seizing assets in America allegedly
bought with looted 1MDB money, believes that $4.5 billion was stolen from the
Investment bank Goldman Sachs is also under scrutiny over 1MDB as it helped
arrange bond issues for the fund. Malaysia claims large amounts were
misappropriated in the process and has filed charges against the bank and
some current and former executives.
The bank has vowed to fight the charges.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)