Asia Pacific / Crime & Legal

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak's major 1MDB trial postponed

AFP-JIJI

Malaysian ex-leader Najib Razak’s most significant 1MDB trial, which centers on claims that huge sums ended up in his bank account, was postponed Monday for a week after prosecutors said they were not ready.

It is the second trial linked to scandal-hit state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad that the former prime minister is due to face since his long-ruling coalition suffered a shock election loss last year.

Billions of dollars were looted from 1MDB and spent on everything from real estate to artwork, in a fraud allegedly involving Najib and his inner circle.

Proceedings were to open Monday over suspect bank transfers linked to 1MDB totalling 2.28 billion ringgit ($550 million) but lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram requested a delay to next month.

“We are unable to proceed,” he told the Kuala Lumpur court, saying that the prosecution in Najib’s first trial was still ongoing, and that documents needed to be handed to the defense and witnesses.

The judge agreed for a postponement but only until Monday next week.

In the case, Najib faces 21 counts of money-laundering and four of abuse of power, including the allegations that the huge sums were sent to his account from overseas banks.

He has denied all the charges.

The case relates to a crucial part of the 1MDB saga.

When reports surfaced that large amounts of cash from the fund had flowed into Najib’s bank account, it dramatically ratcheted up pressure on the leader and his inner circle.

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.

Najib is expected to face several trials over 1MDB. The first started in April and centers on claims that cash was looted from a former 1MDB unit.