Malaysia ex-PM hit with new charges over 1MDB scandal

2018-09-21 07:24

Malaysia's former leader Najib Razak was hit with 25 new charges of corruption and money laundering linked to the 1MDB mega-scandal Thursday, including allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars were transferred to his personal bank account.

Najib denied all charges during a court appearance in Kuala Lumpur. Since his shock election defeat in May, the 65-year-old has now been charged with a total of 32 counts related to state fund 1MDB, which he and his cronies allegedly looted.

He faced four corruption charges and 21 of money-laundering on Thursday. He has already been arrested twice and hit with several counts related to 1MDB since losing power, but observers say the latest legal moves represent a major step forward in efforts to bring him to justice.

Allegations that Najib and his cronies pilfered huge sums from the investment vehicle and spent them on everything from high-end real estate to artwork were a major factor in the defeat of his long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance headed by Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir, 93, who is in his second stint as premier after coming out of retirement to take on scandal-mired Najib, has ramped up probes in the 1MDB scandal and vowed to have the ex-leader prosecuted.

The 64-year-old was initially detained on Wednesday by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over the alleged bank transfers, before facing further questioning by police Thursday morning.

The raft of charges filed on Thursday accused him of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in a complex series of bank transfers from overseas banks. Police said earlier that the money-laundering counts related to $681m that was transferred into his personal account.

The US Department of Justice, which is seeking to recover assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB money, has previously said that $681m from the fund was funnelled to Najib's accounts.

Significant step

Najib has already been charged with money-laundering, criminal breach of trust and abusing his position over claims he pocketed some $10m from a former unit of 1MDB. He denies any wrongdoing.

But the latest charges are more significant and relate to a key episode in the 1MDB scandal.

When reports surfaced in 2015 that huge sums from 1MDB flowed into Najib's bank accounts before a hotly contested election, it dramatically ratcheted up pressure on the leader and his inner circle over the scandal.

The attorney-general later cleared Najib of any wrongdoing, saying the money was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family, and closed down domestic investigations.

But as allegations surrounding the fund multiplied, Najib became increasingly authoritarian, jailing political opponents and introducing laws that critics said were aimed at stifling dissent.

1Malaysia Development Berhad was set up in 2009 and overseen by Najib, with the purported aim of promoting economic development in Malaysia, but accusations quickly mounted that the fund was a vehicle for the leader and his cronies to loot state coffers.

The DoJ estimates that $4.5 billion in total was looted from the fund.

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Read more on:    najib razak  |  malaysia

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