Former Malaysia PM Najib slapped with new graft charges over Abu Dhabi wealth fund payment

Former Malaysia PM Najib slapped with new graft charges over Abu Dhabi wealth fund payment
Najib Razak and Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah pleaded not guilty to counts of criminal breach of trust at a Kuala Lumpur court on Thursday.
3 min read
25 October, 2018
Najib Razak now faces 38 charges, including criminal breach of trust and corruption [Getty]

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and one of his former finance chiefs were charged on Thursday with six counts of criminal breach of trust for allegedly misusing 6.6 billion ringgit ($1.6 billion) of public funds. 

Najib and former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah pleaded not guilty on all charges.

The new charges relate to a deal between the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund and Abu Dhabi-based wealth fund International Petroleum Company (IPIC).

The latest probe relates to a payment of more than $1.2 billion made by 1MDB to IPIC following a $6.5 billion claim made by the Abu Dhabi-based fund.

As chairman of 1MDB's board of advisers at the time of the payment, Najib is liable for his role in the settlment.

Defence lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the transfer was made to avoid Malaysia defaulting on payments. Shafee described the accusations against the former premier as "too general and unreasonable."

"For instance, paying back debts that had not been repaid. If they weren’t repaid, they would have hurt the economy and the people," Najib told reporters. "Nowhere in the charge sheets does it say I gained personal benefit from my actions."

The total number of charges against Najib now stands at 38, including corruption and breach of trust. If found guilty, he faces over 200 years in prison time and tens of millions of dollars in fines.

The former prime minister has long denied allegations made against him, however voters expressed their frustration over the mounting allegations of corruption and embezzlement by voting out his ruling coalition in May.

Invesigators are also probing a payment of $628 million that was made into Najib's personal bank account. It is alleged that the money came from the 1MDB fund, however Najib has insisted that it was a donation from Saudi royalty to prevent the Arab Spring protests from spreading into the wider Muslim world.

Prosecutors allege that billions of dollars of public funds were used to purchase luxury property, a private yacht, fund Hollywood films and lavish shopping sprees.

The 1MDB scandal, which saw Malaysia change its ruling party for the first time since independence in 1957, has also implicated Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Malaysian police have seized over $264 million worth in handbags from the former first lady's residences and several thousand pieces of jewellery.

On Wednesday, police chief Mohamad Fuzi said that investigations are underway into a claim of ownership made by a Lebanese jeweller for 44 pieces of seized jewellery valued at $14.79 million. 

Jewellery firm Global Royalty says it loaned the pieces to Rosmah, who is facing currently 17 money laundering charges, in February.