Singapore— “The accused is not above the law, and his prosecution and this trial should serve as precedents for all future holders of this august office,” was the opening statement of Malaysia’s Attorney General, Tommy Thomas, on the first day of Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial on Wednesday, April 3.
The trial was almost postponed yet again, due to last-ditch efforts from the lawyers of Mr Najib, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister. Earlier in the week, they asked the Federal Court to review its decision to reverse a prior decision from the Court of Appeal to put the trial temporarily on hold.
In an ironic twist of fate, the trial of Mr Najib actually began 10 years from the day of his swearing-in as Prime Minister.
The New York Times reports that analysts such as James Chin, the director of Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania, are calling the trial “a sea change for Malaysian politics” due to “the very simple reason that for the first time a former head of government has been charged with corruption.”
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) the state-owned investment fund that Mr Najib himself founded, ended up losing S$6 billion that may have ended up among his cronies, an amount that includes nearly S$1 billion that prosecutors believe went to his own accounts.
It is one of the biggest corruption cases in history.
The Attorney General told the High Court that Mr Najib spent half a million ringgit (S$ 166,000) from the laundered 1MDB funds buying luxury items at an American boutique in 2015.
Mr Thomas said he will show proof that the RM42 million (S$ 14 million) in 1MDB funds linked to funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd had been channelled into the former Prime Minister’s bank account by subsidiary companies, and then later moved once more to another private account in his name.
Mr Thomas claims that there is proof that Mr Najib issued personal checks for the shopping spree at the American boutique, as well as for renovations on houses in Jalan Langgak Duta and Pekan, Pahang, that belong to him.
Additionally, Mr Thomas says that the prosecution will also show cheques issued to different Barisan Nasional parties.
The Attorney General told the court, “The accused, between Aug 17, 2011, and Feb 8, 2012, as a result of the aforesaid, received as gratification the said monies totalling RM 42million into his AmPrivate Banking-1MY no.211-202-201188-0 and AmPrivate Banking-MY no.211-202-201190-6 bank accounts.”
Furthermore, Mr Thomas said that in December 2014, RM 533,441 (S$177,000) was charged on Mr Najib’s credit card from the Chanel store in Honolulu.
He said, “This trial is the first of many kleptocracy-1MDB-linked prosecutions. To prove the prosecution’s case beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution will be relying on direct and circumstantial evidence, both oral and documentary.”
The proceedings went on for three hours, the former Prime Minister will report back in court on April 15. But yesterday’s appearance will have only been the first among many since Mr Najib is facing multiple charges of graft in connection to the 1MDB scandal.
Despite numerous charges against him, Mr Najib seems to be unfazed by the scrutiny that he is being subjected to. Over the past months, the former Prime Minster has reinvented himself on social media as a man of the people, and as someone who has nothing to be ashamed of.
He seems to be taking a business-as-usual tone on his Facebook account, taking an even tone in his posts, and asking people to withhold judgment until all sides are heard. On the morning after the first day of the trial he wrote, “All evidence will be stated in the court in detail.
Therefore, I ask the people to not speculate and be patient with these claims, and be patient while waiting for our answers and evidence in the court about these charges soon.”
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