KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, yesterday pleaded not guilty to abuse of power and other charges arising from an investigation into a scandal-plagued state fund, weeks after he was ousted in a stunning election defeat.
Mr Najib, 64, who has denied wrongdoing in relation to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund he founded, nodded as he was charged with abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust as part of an investigation into a transaction involving its former unit SRC International.
The charges relate to some 42 million ringgit ($10.4 million) of funds that allegedly went from SRC into Mr Najib’s personal bank account. This represents a small fraction of the billions of dollars the US Department of Justice has said was misappropriated from 1MDB.
Malaysia’s attorney general said he expected more reports from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating wrongdoing at the fund.
“This is arising from the first MACC IP (investigation papers) given to my office three weeks ago. No doubt there will be more,” Tommy Thomas, who is leading the case against Mr Najib, told reporters outside the court.
Each of the four charges against Mr Najib carries a prison term of up to 20 years. The abuse of power charge carries a fine of not less than five times the “value of gratification”.
Mr Najib was granted bail of 1 million ringgit ($247,000) and was ordered to surrender his passports. The judge set a tentative date for the trial to begin of February 18, 2019.
In a pre-recorded message posted on Twitter after his arrest, Mr 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.
After spending Tuesday night in detention, Mr Najib arrived at the court yesterday morning wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie.
Crowds of media and onlookers jostled to catch a glance of Mr Najib. Some supporters of Mr Najib’s UMNO party chanted and held up placards in support of him.
The son of a former prime minister, Mr Najib joined parliament at the age of 23 and rose through the ranks to take the top job in 2009.
But his second term in office from 2013 was plagued by allegations around 1MDB, prompting a stunning fall from grace that culminated in his arrest on Tuesday.
Mahathir Mohamad, who helped Mr Najib’s political ascent before turning on him as the allegations surfaced, led a campaign that unseated him in a May 9 election and ousted a coalition that had ruled since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.