Prosecutors, Defense Lawyers Finish Arguments in ex-Malaysian PM’s First Case

Noah Lee and Ali Nufael
Kuala Lumpur
191023-MY-najib-620.jpg Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (center), arrives at High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 22, 2019.

Malaysian prosecutors and defense lawyers wrapped up arguments in the first corruption trial of Najib Razak on Wednesday, ahead of a ruling next month on whether there is enough evidence for the former prime minister to present his defense.

Najib, who lost power after the general election last year, faces 42 criminal charges of graft and money laundering related to the scandal-plagued 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and other state entities.

Prosecutors said testimony from more than 50 witnesses showed that Najib was aware that  the 42 million ringgit (U.S. $10 million) transferred into his personal accounts were from SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary.

But defense lawyers argued the prosecution failed to support allegations that Najib abused his power.

“The evidence taken cumulatively does not support an inference that Najib corruptly received the 42 million ringgit that was deposited into his accounts,” defense lawyer Farhan Read told the court.

After hearing 11 hours of arguments over two days, High Court Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali is to rule on Nov. 11 whether Najib will need to present a defense on the seven criminal charges filed against him.

On Tuesday, Attorney Gen. Tommy Thomas, the lead prosecutor, said Najib cannot claim to be ignorant about the money that ended up in his personal bank account in 2014 and 2015 as he was in full control of SRC International. Najib served as prime minister and finance minister at that time.

The defense team led by attorney Shafee Abdullah countered by arguing that Najib did not control SRC and could not be found guilty of the charges.

Thomas said Najib, who was paid less than 1 million ringgit ($238,000) a year as the country’s prime minister, has to explain the more than 100 checks issued from two of his personal AmBank accounts using SRC funds. Thomas alleged Najib knew or had reasonable suspicion that the money in his account was from unlawful activity.

“This was a fraud designed by him to benefit over a period,” Thomas told the court. “In every part of the transaction, the accused had an important role to play.”

Additional trials

The charge sheet alleges that between Dec. 24, 2014, and Feb. 6, 2015, the 42 million ringgit were transferred into Najib’s private AmBank accounts through an SRC subsidiary.

Najib, 66, faces three counts of criminal breach of trust, one count of abusing his position and three counts of money laundering and could be sentenced to up to 20 years if convicted.

The seven charges are part of 42 criminal complaints of corruption, money laundering and abuse of power faced by Najib related to 1MDB and SRC International.

In a separate proceeding, Najib is standing trial on 25 charges of abuse of power and money laundering connected with 2.3 billion ringgit (U.S. $681 million) that went missing from 1MDB. He is expected to face additional trials on the 10 remaining charges.

Prosecutors and investigators in Malaysia, the United States and other countries allege Najib used 1MDB to fund an extravagant lifestyle. Also facing charges related to 1MDB are Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low).

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