Straits Herald June 1, 2020

Malaysia’s disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak had no knowledge of multi-million-dollar transfers into his accounts linked to the 1MDB scandal, his lawyers insisted Monday, as his first trial nears an end.

Billions of dollars were looted from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and spent on items ranging from high-end real estate to artwork, in a globe-spanning fraud allegedly involving Najib and his inner circle.

The former prime minister lost power in 2018 elections in large part due to the allegations, and has since been hit with dozens of charges and put on trial over the controversy.

He denies all wrongdoing. 

On Monday his first trial — centering on the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.7 million) to his bank accounts — resumed after a break due to a coronavirus lockdown, with the defence team presenting closing arguments. 

His lawyers argued the 66-year-old was ignorant of the transactions into his accounts from a former unit of 1MDB, SRC International, and was a victim of others who masterminded the fraud. 

“The money went into the accused’s account without his knowledge,” lawyer Harvinderjit Singh told the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

He said prosecutors had not proven that Najib was guilty, adding that if he was sent to jail “it better be based on evidence — one’s liberty cannot be taken away by possibilities”. 

Najib’s legal team has pointed the finger at Low Taek Jho, a jet-setting Malaysian financier known as “Jho Low”, as the true mastermind behind the scandal, and say he tricked the former premier.

Low, who held no official positions at 1MDB but was believed to wield huge influence over the investment vehicle, has been charged in Malaysia and the US over the fraud. The financier, whose current whereabouts are unknown, maintains his innocence. 

Prosecutors claim, however, that Najib had control over the former 1MDB unit, and took major decisions related to it. 

After the defence and prosecution present their closing arguments this week, the judge is expected to set a date to deliver a verdict. Najib is facing seven charges of corruption and money-laundering in the case. 

It is one of three trials so far underway involving the former premier over the scandal. -AFP