It was a trying week for Najib Razak, Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister. Twenty-five charges were brought on him, in saga that is gripping Malaysia’s politics.
Firstly, he was arrested on Wednesday, 19 September 2018 by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for offences relating to the 1 Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) that involved 2.6 billion ringgit deposited into his personal account. The arrest of the former premier was made at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya at about four thirteen in the afternoon. He had earlier turned up to give his statement regarding the 2.6 billion ringgit from the 1MDB funds that was deposited into his personal account.
He was detained overnight at the MACC headquarters for questioning before being led to The Royal Malaysian Police’s Commercial Crime Investigations Department in central Kuala Lumpur for another series of questioning at about nine in the morning on Thursday, 20 September. Najib Razak was escorted by the police and MACC officers. The police also recorded his official statement before he was due to appear in court later in the afternoon.
Local and international press were waiting for him when he arrived under police escort at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex at about one forty eight in the afternoon. Supporters of the former premier arrived and gathered outside the court some time later in show of solidarity for Najib Razak. However only reporters issued with the police and court passes were allowed into the court house.
He appeared before sessions court judge Azura Alwi represented by his lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to face a total of 25 charges of graft and money laundering amounting to 2.3 billion ringgit. Najib Razak pleaded not guilty to four graft charges and claimed trial to 21 charges under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, Anti-Terrorism Financing Act and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001. The offences were said to have taken place when he was Prime Minister, finance minister and advisor to 1MDB.
The prosecution team that was led by former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram asked the court to deny the former premier bail as the offences he was charged with do not allow for bails. Gopal Sri Ram argued that the prosecution objected to any bail but if the judge allowed it, then the bail had to be set at least five million ringgit with two sureties.
Finally, the court granted Najib Razak a bail of 3.5 million ringgit with two sureties. The bail was to be paid in staggered payments with the first 1 million settled by Friday, 21 September and another 500,000 ringgit next week. Judge Azura Alwi allowed the bail payment to be made over a period and settled by 28 September. The judge also set 16 November for case management. It must be noted that members of the United States’ Department of Justice (DoJ) were also present to observe the court hearing.
Prior to this latest court appearance, Najib Razak had faced charges back in July 2018 when he was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and a fourth charge for receiving bribes amounting 42 million ringgit. A month later in August, he was hit with a further three charges for money laundering under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla).For the offences in July and August, Najib Razak was allowed bail of 1 million ringgit with two sureties and the additional condition of him surrendering both his normal and diplomatic passports.
His third appearance at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex had come mere weeks after two highly publicized books on the 1MDB was launched worldwide. Billion Dollar Whale, which was written by Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope and The Sarawak Report; The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose by Claire Rewcastle-Brown have both been selling fast and as of Thursday, 20 September, out of stock at major bookshops across Kuala Lumpur. So great was the demand that it was said many have had to get their copy of the books via PDF pages, which is illegal.
Jho Low, Najib Razak’s supposed partner in the 1MDB had just set up a website to protest his innocence. The website came complete with a signed personal letter and media statements to the press regarding his highly prized super yacht Equanimity which was seized by the Indonesian government and handed over to the Malaysian authorities back in August and his involvement in the 1MDB. Overall the website seemed to portray himself as a victim of a prejudiced legal system.
Apart from his own charges that number 25 in total as of Friday, 21 September, Najib Razak has had to bear the legal actions that have been levelled against his own lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah. The prominent lawyer who was formerly a deputy public prosecutor had just been ordered to face charges of money laundering and tax evasion last week on Thursday, 13 September. For the charges, he was allowed bail of 1 million ringgit with two sureties as well as the surrender of both his normal and diplomatic passports.
And that’s not all. The MACC has also not completely ruled out the possibility that Najib Razak could be charged with more legal actions soon. His wife, Rosmah Mansor who was taken for questioning by the MACC back in June could soon be facing her very own set of legal charges. Sources claimed that it was highly possible that she would be hit with as many as 20 charges involving money laundering. Apparently authorities have reopened a case file on the spouse of the former Prime Minister soon after Barisan Nasional was defeated by Pakatan Harapan in the last general election.
Yet Najib Razak is holding his head steady and still smiling to the press. Hours after his court appearance, he shared on Twitter how he was confident the truth would prevail and thanked all those who had prayed for him.
Check out @NajibRazak’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/NajibRazak/status/1042750015200870401?s=08
He capped it off with another Twitter photo entry of him and his mother, Rahah Mohamad Noah. The picture portrayed a filial son kissing the hands of his mother, the highly respected widow of Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia’s second Prime Minister.
Check out @NajibRazak’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/NajibRazak/status/1042796076808331264?s=08
It is safe to say that Najib Razak is refueling and preparing for another challenging week ahead.