Malaysia

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is suspected of being involved in a multi-billion dollar fraud with planetary ramifications.

A Malaysian court is due to deliver its verdict on Tuesday in the corruption trial of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, 16 months after the prosecution began for his role in the vast 1MDB scandal.

Najib Razak and his relatives are accused of plundering the sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), supposed to contribute to Malaysia’s economic development, in a multibillion dollar fraud with planetary ramifications.

Part of the embezzled funds would have been used to finance the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” with Leonardo DiCaprio, while the Goldman Sachs bank was splashed by the affair.

Malaysian anger at the looting played a big role in the surprise electoral defeat in 2018 of the coalition led by Najib Razak, who had been in power for six decades.

Investigations were then opened against the ousted leader by a new reformist government. And Najib Razak was arrested, then targeted by dozens of charges.

Three separate trials

The former prime minister is at the center of three separate trials linked to the 1MDB fund, and it is the first to be concluded Tuesday before the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

The lawsuit concerns the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($ 9.9 million) from SRC International, a fund entity, to the official’s bank accounts.

He denies any irregularities and his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told AFP as the verdict approached that he thought he had “a good defense”.

Najib Razak, targeted by four counts of corruption and three of money laundering, says he knew nothing about money transfers.

The defense presented the former prime minister as a victim and named a Malaysian financier, Low Taek Jho, as the main culprit and “mastermind” of the looting.

Also nicknamed Jho Low, the man prosecuted in Malaysia and the United States, remains untraceable but has protested his innocence through his lawyers.

Political upheavals

The prosecution considers on the contrary that Najib Razak controlled the entity linked to the fund and that the accusation is solid. But observers believe the latest political turmoil in the country could influence the verdict. Najib Razak’s party regained power in March after the fall of a reformist coalition.

Since then, lawsuits against Riza Aziz, the ex-prime minister’s son-in-law and one of the producers of “Wolf of Wall Street” have been unexpectedly dropped in exchange for a settlement agreement.

The prosecution also dropped several dozen charges against an ally of the former Prime Minister, Musa Aman, the former leader of the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Najib Razak, currently free on bail, is punishable for each count of corruption with a maximum of 20 years in prison, and 15 years for each count of money laundering. But the 67-year-old is expected to appeal and may not be jailed immediately.

For Bridget Welsh, expert on Malaysia at the University of Nottingham, a conviction would be welcomed by many because it would signal “that justice is done in the 1MDB scandal”. On the contrary, an acquittal “would weigh heavily on Malaysia’s international reputation”.

Several countries are also investigating the looting of the 1MDB fund, which was used to acquire luxury goods, properties, a yacht and works of art by those close to Najib Razak.

The embezzlement judged in Najib Razak’s first trial are modest compared to those at stake in his second and most significant trial, which examines alleged embezzlement over $ 500 million.

The US Department of Justice, which is conducting its own investigation into allegations of money laundering through the US financial system, estimates that $ 4.5 billion was embezzled from the sovereign wealth fund by the former Malaysian prime minister and his officials. relatives.

Malaysia had accused Goldman Sachs and several of its officials of allowing the hijackings by organizing a bond issue of 6.5 billion dollars for 1MDB. The prosecution believes that a significant portion of the amounts raised have been misappropriated.

But on Friday Malaysia struck a $ 3.9 billion deal to end lawsuits against the Wall Street giant.

(AFP/NXP)