Judge Says Najib Has a Case to Answer in Corruption Trial

Anisah Shukry and Hadi Azmi

(Bloomberg) -- A Malaysian judge ordered ex-premier Najib Razak to defend himself against all charges in the trial involving a former unit of troubled state-owned fund 1MDB.

Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said the prosecution has made a successful case for all charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering in the case. Najib’s involvement in the ex-1MDB unit was “pervasive and imperious” and his conduct showed personal interest beyond that of the public office, the judge said. Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas‘s accomplishment in building a strong enough case against Najib is key to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad maintaining public support. Mahathir returned to power last year on a campaign to oust Najib and bring those responsible for the 1MDB scandal to justice.

The “true and ultimate power” lies with Najib and no other, the judge said when discussing the allegations of breach of trust, while “the ingredients of dishonest misappropriation have been established” in relation to the money-laundering charges.

Najib first said he would testify through a sworn statement, before his lawyer interrupted to seek a short break to advise the former premier. He will take the stand on Dec. 3 as the defense’s first witness with his lawyer expecting a March completion to the trial, which was the first of his many cases to be heard at court.

Breach of Trust

Since the hearing started in April, prosecutors have called dozens of witnesses, including a central bank official and a former cabinet minister, to argue Najib engaged in a “planned, premeditated criminal breach of trust case” that ran over many years. His lawyers said he had been misled by others, including fugitive financier Jho Low, who faces his own set of charges linked to 1MDB.

The current case, which revolves around seven corruption charges, hinges on whether Najib knew the 42 million ringgit ($10 million) deposited in his accounts came from a former unit of 1MDB known as SRC International Sdn. Prosecutors had said it was “incredible” for Najib to say he wasn’t aware of the sum sent to his accounts since he made no police reports and didn’t sue the bank for wrongful deposit.

His lawyers argued there was no link between the sum and Najib’s decisions related to SRC, which they said would mean the funds don’t constitute a bribe and the charges should be dismissed.

(Updates with comments from Najib’s lawyer in fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Anisah Shukry in Kuala Lumpur at ashukry2@bloomberg.net;Hadi Azmi in Kuala Lumpur at klnews@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Yudith Ho at yho35@bloomberg.net, Ruth Pollard

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