Malaysia's ex-PM Najib takes stand in 1MDB trial

03 Décembre, 2019, 14:38 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak walks past the media scrum at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak has taken to the witness box for the first time to defend himself against charges linked to a multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

He has since been arrested and hit with dozens of charges linked to the looting of the investment vehicle.

"Najib is not part of the conspiracy. He is a victim as much as others in the 1MDB scandal", his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Adbullah told reporters.

His testimony, in a question and answer format, began with how he set up 1MDB in 2009 and how the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, said to be at the center of the scandal, came to be associated with the fund.

"The crux of my defence is the entire scheme is designed by Jho Low", Shafee added.

"(Low) portrayed himself as someone influential in the Middle East countries who I believed was able to facilitate investments and partnerships between them", Najib said, speaking calmly and deliberately to a packed courtroom.

Najib arrived at the court in a blue suit and held a brief Muslim prayer with supporters at the building's steps. He will also face cross-examination from prosecutors and is expected to be on the witness stand for around four days.

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Najib began his testimony on Tuesday by reading from a 243-page statement, recalling his long career in politics and ministerial posts he had held since 1978, including the post of finance minister.

Of the seven charges he was asked to enter defence, Najib is accused of committing three counts of criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, and a separate charge of abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same sum. Each charge of corruption carries a maximum jail term of 20 years, and each money-laundering count is punishable by a term of up to 15 years.

Prosecutors have argued that Najib wielded huge influence over the unit and knew that stolen money was being funneled from it into his accounts. "I am as prepared as I can be", he told AFP.

"(Najib) was not involved in any corrupt arrangement involving funds of SRC and did not solicit any bribes from any person", he said.

The amount transferred to his account "was done without his knowledge or involvement" as the transactions "were being manipulated by third parties without his knowledge and approval", Mr Shafee said.

The US Department of Justice has said about $4.5bn siphoned from 1MDB was used by Low and his associates to buy a yacht, a private jet, as well as Picasso paintings, jewellery, and real estate. The biggest opened in August, centring on allegations he illicitly obtained over $500 million from the fund.

US authorities, who are also investigating the fraud as money was allegedly laundered through the American financial system, believe 4.5 billion USA dollars was looted from the fund.

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