Najib was jointly charged in a court in Kuala Lumpur with ex-senior finance ministry official, Mohamad Irwan Serigar Abdullah, with six counts of criminal breach of trust. But they denied all the charges.
The charges involved 6.6 billion ringgit (1.6 billion USD) of public money from the 1MDB and allegedly took place between December 2016 and December 2017. Each charge is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
Local media reported that some of the money was used to pay debts owed by 1MDB to Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC. The Malaysian state investment fund slid into a massive debt hole as huge sums of money were allegedly stolen and used to buy everything from a super-yacht, to high-end real estate and pricey artworks.
Another key Najib ally, former spy chief Hasanah Abdul Hamid, is expected to be charged in court later the same day. The former prime minister's wife, Rosmah Mansor, and the new leader of his party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, have also been arrested and charged.
Najib has now been hit with 38 charges since losing power, most of them related to allegations that he and his cronies plundered vast sums from the 1MDB. According to the Malaysian authorities, the total market value of luxury watches, jewellery, high-end handbags, and cash seized at properties linked to Najib amounted to 372 million USD.
Najib founded the 1MDB investment fund in 2009, supposedly to serve Malaysia’s development through global partnerships and foreign direct investment. However, it became the centre of a money laundering scandal, allegedly causing losses of up to 3.7 billion USD and leading to probes into the financial markets in several countries such as the US, Switzerland, Singapore, Malaysia, and China.
Najib will go on trial on February 12, 2019. The trial will run from February 12 to March 29, 2019. If convicted, he will face multi-year prison sentences.-VNA