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  HOME | Business & Economy (Click here for more)

Former Malaysian Premier Begins Defense over Corruption Charges

BANGKOK Ė Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has begun his defense testimony over charges linked to a multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

He took the stand for the first time in a Malaysian court on Tuesday and insisted on his innocence over allegations of embezzlement from a state fund.

Leading defense lawyer Shafee Abdullah said in opening the former leader was unaware the money from the transfers came from illegal activity.

He also rejected that his client offered bribes or was involved in any type of crime of corruption, according to a document provided to the media.

The document said Najib acted at all times in the interest of the Malaysian government and not for personal interest.

The case revolves around three transfers totaling 42 million ringgit ($10 million) from SRC International, a subsidiary of 1MDB, to Najibís private accounts, who faces three charges of money laundering, three of abuse of trust and another of abuse of power.

The former president, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, took an oath and began reading his testimony, which consisted of more than 200 pages and is expected to continue during several hearings.

According to the document disclosed by his lawyers, Najib said the circumstances and events led him to assume Jho Low, close to Najib and considered a key person in the diversion of money from the fund, had links with the Saudi royal family and the funds deposited in their accounts came from a donation from King Abdullah, who died in 2015.

Low, who is wanted by Malaysian and American authorities, is unaccounted for and has denied any crime through a law firm representing him.

The 1MDB corruption plot came to light in 2015, when a journalistic investigation exposed the billionaire diversion from the state fund to Najibís private accounts, founder of the fund and then Malaysian prime minister.

The 66-year-old politician, who led the government between 2009 and 2018, appropriated around 2.6 billion ringgit ($622 million), according to investigative news site Sarawak Report and The Wall Street Journal.

The corruption case contributed to Najibís election defeat in May 2018.

He has been charged with 42 offences, including money laundering and abuse of power, since he lost office.

Najib created 1MDB in 2009, the year he assumed leadership of the government, to attract foreign investment and create a financial district in Kuala Lumpur, but it has accumulated a debt of 42 billion ringit ($10 billion).

 

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