A Malaysian judge on Monday postponed the second and most significant corruption trial of former Prime Minister Najib Razak to allow prosecutors to wrap up their presentation of witnesses in his first trial tied to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal.
Najib, who has denied all the charges against him, faces 21 counts of money-laundering and four of abuse-of-power charges in this second case. He has been slammed with a total 42 charges in five separate criminal cases filed against him since his electoral defeat in May last year.
Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur said the hearing would start next Monday, Aug. 26, to allow prosecutors to complete their presentation of witnesses in the previous trial related to SRC International, a 1MDB subsidiary. But the judged asked prosecution and defense attorneys to “check again” with him on the schedule on Thursday.
“I maintain that the trial starts on Monday. I can be reasonable and stand down, maybe half a day for you to go through the documents,” the judge said.
The upcoming trial marks the first time the former leader will face charges directly stemming from the alleged theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state investment fund Najib established 10 years ago purportedly as a vehicle for spurring economic development in the country.
In the first trial, Najib faces seven charges related to accusations that 42 million ringgit (about U.S. $10.3 million) was illegally diverted into his personal bank accounts from SRC International.
Malaysian prosecutors accuse him of pocketing a total of $681 million (2.85 billion ringgit) from the sovereign wealth fund. The U.S. Justice Department, which has also filed criminal cases linked to the 1MDB scandal, called it the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.”
If found guilty, Najib could be sentenced to decades in prison and fined millions of dollars.