'Overarching influence': Najib must enter defence in 1MDB trial

Judge in first trial related to multi-billion dollar scandal at Malaysia state fund says prosecution has made case.

    Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, greets supporters as he arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court where a judge ruled that he must enter his defence in the first of a series of corruption trials in relation to state fund 1MDB [Vincent Thian/AP Photo]
    Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, greets supporters as he arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court where a judge ruled that he must enter his defence in the first of a series of corruption trials in relation to state fund 1MDB [Vincent Thian/AP Photo]

    A Malaysian court on Monday ruled that former Prime Minister Najib Razak will have to defend himself against seven counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in a case linked to the multi-billion dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB.

    Najib, 66, who faces dozens of criminal charges over accusations that $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, told the court he would testify in his defence.

    In the first case against him, which began in April, Najib is accused of receiving illegal transfers of 42 million ringgit ($10 million) from SRC International, a unit of 1MDB. He has pleaded not guilty.

    "The accused had enormous and overarching influence" over the 1MDB unit, SRC International, the judge told the court.

    "It was under the control of the accused from day one. The accused wielded considerable power."

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    Najib, who remains free on bail, was in court for the decision and hung his head as the ruling was read out.

    He told the court he would take the stand in his defence with the case due to start on December 3.

    Malaysia: Ex-PM Najib Razak's biggest 1MDB trial gets under way

    If the former prime minister, who was removed in elections in May 2018, is convicted he will face lengthy jail terms of between 15 and 20 years for each charge, as well as hefty fines.

    Attorney General Tommy Thomas opened the trial in April by saying that the former prime minister and finance minister was "directly involved" in decision-making at SRC, where he was an adviser, and 1MDB, where he was chairman of the fund's board of advisers.

    In summing up the prosecution's case, which involved 57 witnesses, Thomas said that there was "overwhelming evidence" against Najib.

    Najib's defence has argued that the prime minister was not aware of what was happening and was misled by others, including Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who is now a fugitive.

    A second 1MDB trial began in August with Najib facing 25 charges in that case.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies