Malaysia: Najib’s Wife Pleads Not Guilty to Bribery Charges

Hadi Azmi, Lex Radz and Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
181115-MY-Corruption1000.jpg Flanked by her lawyer and court officials, Rosmah Mansor (center) walks to a hearing at Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Nov. 15, 2018.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

The wife of ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak pleaded not guilty Thursday to new graft-related charges, which accuse her of seeking and receiving a bribe to influence the approval of a 1.25 billion ringgit (U.S. $299 million) education-related energy project.

Prosecutors alleged that Rosmah Mansor asked for 187.5 million ringgit ($44.8 million) from Jepak Holdings, a company that sought a contract with the education department for a solar project and to maintain and operate diesel generators for 369 rural schools in Sarawak state, between March and April 2016.

She also was charged with allegedly receiving 1.5 million ringgit ($358,000) on Sept. 7, 2017, from the company for the project.

If found guilty, Rosmah, who already faces 17 money laundering and tax fraud charges, could be sentenced to up to 20 years and ordered to pay a fine of not less than five times the amount of the alleged bribe.

In May, Malaysian police raided a former office and residences linked to Najib and Rosmah, removing 567 designer handbags, hundreds of Swiss-made watches and dozens of suitcases containing cash and 12,000 pieces of jewelry. Authorities said the seized cash totaled 114 million ringgit ($28.75 million), while the items seized were valued at as much as 1.1 billion ringgit ($273 million).

Najib, who faces 38 corruption charges including many tied to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal, was present in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court to see Rosmah charged. U.S. Department of Justice officials allege that almost $4.5 billion was embezzled and laundered through real estate and other assets from 1MDB, which was established by Najib in 2009 to fund development projects in Malaysia.

Judge Azman Ahmad set Rosmah’s bail at 1 million ringgit ($239,000) and set Dec. 10 as the date for the next session in the case.

“Based on the defense appeal, the court allowed for the bail to be paid in stages – 500,000 ringgit ($119,500) today with the remaining to be paid within seven days,” he said.

Isham Jalil, a former special officer to Najib, criticized the new government, claiming it was trying to ruin the couple by forcing them to pay so much to stay out of jail.

“Both had accumulatively paid 13.6 million ringgit ($3.24 million) for all previous charges,” Isham said, arguing the court should require token bail instead.

In a different courtroom, Rosmah’s former aide, Rizal Mansor, who is not related, was charged with four counts of graft related to the same solar project.  He was accused of asking for 189 million ringgit ($45.2 million) on behalf of Rosmah and 25 million ringgit ($6 million) for himself from the same company in March and April 2016.

Rizal also was accused of receiving a 5 million ringgit ($1.19 million) bribe on behalf of Rosmah and another 500,000 ringgit ($119,000) bribe for himself in December 2016. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years and face a fine of five times the amount received if convicted.

Deputy public prosecutor Khairul Bahrin Omar told the court a motion would be filed for Rosmah and Rizal to be tried together.

Judge Rozina Ayob set Rizal’s bail at 1 million ringgit and reminded him to not contact any witnesses. Rozina also ordered Rizal, who made bail, to surrender his international passport and any diplomatic passports.

Land deals charges

Former minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor pleaded not guilty to charges related to allegedly accepting 3 million ringgit ($715,600) in bribes relating to land deals.

Tengku Adnan was accused of accepting 1 million ringgit ($238,500) and 2 million ringgit ($477,000) from two businessmen for two development projects while serving as the federal territories Minister.

Judge Azman set bail at 1 million ringgit ($238,500), ordered Tengku to surrender his passports and scheduled the next session for Dec. 12.

Property tycoon Tan Eng Boon, the alleged source of the bribe, was charged as well. He was released on 700,000 ringgit ($167,000) and instructed to report monthly to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

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