Straits Herald October 22, 2019

Malaysian ex-leader Najib Razak engaged in a “well-planned” plot to plunder state fund 1MDB, prosecutors argued Tuesday as a judge prepares to decide whether his first trial over the scandal should proceed.

But the defence team of the 66-year-old, who was voted out of office last year in large part due to allegations he and his cronies pilfered massive sums from the fund to buy everything from real estate to artwork, said that the evidence presented in court was not enough to prove his guilt. 

After being ejected from office, Najib was hit with dozens of charges and his first 1MDB-linked trial began in April, centring on claims 42 million ringgit ($10 million) was stolen from a former unit of the fund. 

The prosecution wrapped up its case in August. On Tuesday prosecutors and defence lawyers presented arguments before the judge rules on November 11 whether the case is strong enough to move forward. 

If it proceeds, Najib will likely begin his defence in December.

Prosecutor V. Sithambaram told the Kuala Lumpur High Court that Najib engaged in a “planned, premeditated” plot to steal the money over several years.

It was a “well-designed, well-planned execution of (criminal conduct) committed by the person in the highest office in the country,” he said.

In a written submission, Najib’s defence team argued that “the bulk of the evidence” did not lead to “any finding of culpability” on Najib’s part, and he should be cleared.

Najib is facing seven charges of corruption and money-laundering in the trial. He denies any wrongdoing.

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.

The prosecution called 57 witnesses and the court heard evidence about the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by Najib and his widely reviled wife, Rosmah Mansor, after allegedly looting state coffers. 

Najib’s biggest 1MDB trial opened in August, centring on allegations he illicitly obtained the equivalent of $545 million from 1MDB. – AFP