Kuala Lumpur, July 4 (Just News): Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was charged in court Wednesday with criminal breach of trust and corruption, two months after a multibillion dollar graft scandal at a state investment fund led to his shock election defeat.
Najib, wearing a suit and a red tie, appeared calm and smiled as he was escorted into the court complex packed with reporters.
He was arrested Tuesday by anti-graft officials over a suspicious transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.4 million) into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB state investment fund that US investigators say was looted of billions by associates of Najib.
In a lower court, he was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of corruption. Each charge has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Whipping is also a penalty but Najib would be exempt because of his age.
The case against him will be transferred to the High Court where Najib is expected to make his plea Wednesday.
Najib, 64, denies any wrongdoing and has accused the new government of seeking “political vengeance.”
In a recorded video posted on social media hours after his arrest, Najib apologized to Malaysians but remained defiant.
“As a normal human being, I am not perfect but believe me, that the accusations against me and my family are not all true,” he said.
New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations into 1MDB that were stifled under Najib’s rule.
Najib set up 1MDB when he took power in 2009 but the fund amassed billions in debts and is being investigated in the US and several other countries.
Najib and his wife were questioned last month over the SRC case by the anti-graft agency and have both been barred from leaving the country. Police have also seized jewelry and valuables valued at more than 1.1 billion ringgit ($272 million) from properties linked to Najib.
USinvestigators say $4.5 billion was stolen and laundered from 1MDB by Najib’s associates, including some $700 million that landed in Najib’s bank account.
Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert at John Cabot University in Rome, said Najib’s arrest was the “inevitable outcome” after he lost power.
“It shows the resolve of the new government to address previous abuses of power. It has been done judiciously so far and speaks to a needed reckoning for Malaysia and a key step toward a cleaner governance,” she said in an email.
Malaysia’s new attorney general, Tommy Thomas, will head the prosecution in the case.