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- Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak has been charged with criminal breach of trust.
- Najib was arrested on Tuesday in relation to a probe investigating billions of dollars missing from the state investment fund 1MDB.
- Hundreds of millions of dollars were reportedly found in Najib’s bank account in 2015, and the ensuing financial scandal led to Najib’s losing his reelection bid in May.
- Najib’s spokesperson said the charges were “politically motivated.”
Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak was officially charged with criminal breach of trust on Wednesday.
Najib lost his bid for re-election after being tainted by a financial scandal that saw billions of dollars go missing from the 1MDB state investment fund he created. Hundreds of millions of dollars were reportedly found in Najib’s personal bank accounts, but he has denied any wrongdoing saying he received $680 million as a donation from Saudi Arabia.
But Malaysia’s new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, made investigating 1MDB an early priority of his government and on Tuesday Najib was arrested by anti-corruption officials. He was detained overnight and appeared in court on Wednesday morning.
Najib was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust, each of which faces a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and whipping. He was also charged under a specific section of anti-corruption laws that describe using an office or position for gratification, which could also lead to up to 20 yeears in jail and a fine five times the value of the siphoned money.
The attorney general is leading a 12-person team to prosecute Najib, according to Channel News Asia’s Sumisha Naidu. Najib pleaded not guilty after the case was moved to the High Court.
The charges are in relation to the suspected mishandling and misappropriation of funds from SRC International, a former unit of state investment fund 1MDB, between 2011 and 2015. $US10.6 million was allegedly transferred from SRC to Najib’s personal accounts, which Malaysia’s former attorney general reportedly chose not to investigate.
The US Department of Justice has previously said over $4.5 billion was siphoned off from 1MDB. Mahathir, 92, last month said Najib was fully responsible for the scandal, and the case against his former protege was “almost perfect.”
Najib’s spokesman has called the charges “politically motivated.”
Since leaving office, Najib has been barred from leaving the country and police seized $273 million-worth of valuable from properties linked to the former prime minister, including 567 handbags, 234 pairs of sunglasses, and 12,000 pieces of jewelry. Najib has said these items were gifts.