Former Malaysian prime minister takes stand in corruption trial

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak will face cross-examination from prosecutors and is expected to be on the witness stand for around four days

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak will face cross-examination from prosecutors and is expected to be on the witness stand for around four days

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak yesterday took the stand to answer charges that he illegally received RM42 million (S$13.7 million) from SRC International, a sub-unit of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The 66-year-old's coalition was ousted at the polls last year after six decades in power, largely due to public anger over the scandal, and 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".

What is the 1MDB scandal?

Standing in the witness stand in his crisp blue suit, Najib outlined 1MDB's formation and the role of financier Low Taek Jho, who has been identified by US investigators as the mastermind behind the massive scandal that is being probed in several countries. "So the question is if he [Shahrol] can be misled by Jho Low, then [my client] can too", he added.

"I thought his influence and connections will help 1MDB achieve its goals and attract investments".

Najib is defending himself against seven charges of abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering relating to 42 million ringgit ($10.1 million) that allegedly went into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund.

Najib arrived at the court in a blue suit and held a brief Muslim prayer with supporters at the building's steps.

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Defence proceedings began with Najib giving testimony under oath.

"What I understood from that was, the adviser emeritus' role was limited to decisions on important projects, not the company's daily operations". The trial will resume Wednesday.

Najib, who unexpectedly lost a general election a year ago, is now facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received about $1 billion in 1MDB funds.

SRC had received loans totalling RM4 billion from the civil servant pension fund, Retirement Fund Incorporated, in 2011 and 2012, with a government guarantee that was approved by the Cabinet when Najib was both the prime minister and finance minister.

Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who leads Najib's defence team, said in an opening statement ahead of the former premier's testimony, that his client had no reason to believe that proceeds of any illegal activity were transferred to him.

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", Shafee said.

"Nonetheless and given the serious consequences to his liberty, Najib has used his best endeavours to prepare for the defence case in the circumstances". The biggest opened in August, centering on allegations he illicitly obtained over 500 million USA dollars from the fund.

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

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