Malaysian ex-prime minister Najib arrested in stunning fall from grace

Saul Bowman
July 5, 2018

In a stunning fall from grace, Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged in court on Wednesday as part of an investigation into allegations of extensive corruption and misappropriation at a state fund he founded.

U.S. investigators have claimed that Mr Najib's associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion (£3.4bn) from the fund between 2009 to 2014, and 1MDB is being probed in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and graft.

In addition, the court granted an interim gag order until Aug 8 when the case will be mentioned and an application for a full gag order will be heard.

Three years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Malaysian investigators had traced the deposit to a state fund 1MDB that Najib founded over a decade ago. Sources close to the matter said he may face several charges.

In a recorded video posted on social media hours after his arrest, Najib apologised to Malaysians but remained defiant. The charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to five times the value of amount received, is one of three charges laid in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

He also thanked the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) and the security team for treating him well and respecting him as a former prime minister.

Since his loss at the polls to mentor-turned-foe Mahathir, Najib has been barred from leaving the country and had millions of dollars of items seized from properties linked to his family.

"I am confident of my innocence, I believe in my innocence and this is the best chance to clear my name", Najib told reporters outside the courtroom after being released on bail.

Apart from the probe into Red Granite Pictures, the DOJ has also embarked on its biggest-ever Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative to claim assets worth US$4.5 billion which was allegedly embezzled from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014 and laundered globally. While in power, Najib said the $700 million was a donation from the Saudi royal family.

SRC, created in 2011 by Najib's government to pursue overseas investments in energy resources, was a unit of 1MDB until it was moved to the finance ministry in 2012.

"It signals a new era where no one in public office will be immune from punitive action if they abuse power", he added. "It has been done judiciously so far and speaks to a needed reckoning for Malaysia and a key step toward a cleaner governance", she said in an email.

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