A Malaysian judge on Monday rejected a bid by former Prime Minister Najib Razak to have seven corruption charges against him dropped in his trial linked to the alleged theft of billions from the 1MDB state fund.
Judge Nazlan Ghazali ruled that the charges against Najib would stand. He dismissed the former leader’s claims that the accusations were defective as they lacked clarity and were structured to mislead in such a way that he could not put up a proper defense.
“I hereby find the argument that the charges are defective is unsustainable,” Nazlan said.
Najib’s current trial, which started on April 3, focuses on seven of the total 42 charges against him related to his role in the scandal surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the sovereign wealth fund he started in 2009 during his dual role then as prime minister and finance minister. He has pleaded not guilty to the seven charges, which include money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
Najib’s lawyers did not indicate whether they would appeal the ruling.
The seven charges specifically revolve around allegations that 42 million ringgit ($10.3 million) were illegally funneled electronically into Najib’s private bank accounts from SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary.
The 1MDB scandal led to the fall of Najib’s government and the rise of the then opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, which campaigned last year on a platform of cleaning up corruption. Najib’s former mentor-turned-nemesis, Mahathir Mohamad, led Pakatan to victory in the May 2018 general election and took over as prime minister.
U.S. prosecutors contend that $4.5 billion (18.3 billion ringgit) was diverted from 1MDB into the bank accounts of Najib, his friends and family, in what they described as “kleptocracy at its worst.”
Najib’s attorneys had earlier argued that the seven charges against him lacked merit and should either be dropped or modified.
Aside from the seven charges in the SRC International case, Najib is facing another 35 charges for crimes he allegedly committed as head of the 1MDB, which he founded in 2009 ostensibly to boost the nation’s economy through strategic investments. Those cases had been calendared for hearings from May until June this year.