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Malaysia's Former PM Najib Razak Begins Trial On Slush-Fund Charges: NPR



Najib Razak, Malaysia's former prime minister, leaves court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday – the first day of his trial on charges that is used to put millions of dollars into his own accounts.
                
                
                    
                    Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images
                    
                

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Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images
        
    

Najib Razak, Malaysia's former prime minister, leaves court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday – the first day of his trial on charges that are used to put millions of dollars into his own accounts.

Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images
            
        

Updated at 10:33 a.m. ET

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak is on trial in a wide-ranging corruption case, accused of siphoning millions of dollars from a state investment fund called 1MDB. Najib's trial began Wednesday, nearly a year after he was out of office.

Najib, 65, has insisted he is innocent, saying he didn't improperly ride himself during the decade in which he jointly served as Malaysia's prime minister and finance minister. But prosecutors say that Najib's dual posts have almost absolute authority – and that it is criminally abused.

"Today's trial involves more than $ 10 million into Najib's personal account from an account linked to 1MDB," NPR's Michael Sullivan reports Kuala Lumpur. "Investigations at other countries only that hundreds of millions found their way into Najib's accounts over the years."

The former prime minister is facing a raft of charges that include criminal breach of trust and money laundering – and Wednesday's trial is the first 1MBD scandal and alleged misuse of billions of dollars against him in connection with the broader

While the government's allegations against Najib involve more than $ 680 million in state funds wound up in his personal bank accounts, the 1MDB fund accumulated some $ 6.5 billion – money raised with the help of US bank Goldman Sachs, which also faces charges related to 1MDB.

Founded in 2009, the allegedly slush-fund snowballed from being a tool for exorbitant lifestyles to fueling massive pet projects.

The U.S. Justice Department said in 2017 that it believes Malaysian kleptocrats trust at least $ 4.5 trillion from 1MDB accounts, and that of which money was laundered through shell companies before being used to buy luxury items and make investments in the US

As the DOJ described those purchases: "These assets are allegedly included high-end real estate and hotel properties in New York and Los Angeles, with $ 35 million jet aircraft, works of art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, an interest in the music publishing rights or EMI Music and the production of the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street . "

Others who have been charged in the scandal include Malaysian financier Jho Low – believed to be the fraud's mastermind – along with two forms Goldman Sachs Bankers

The alleged fraud was exposed by The Wall Street Journal in 2015. Speaking to NPR's Mo rning edition, the Journal's Tom Wright, who helped break the story, called it "probably the largest corruption scandal ever to have occurred."

Wright says 1MDB "wasn't a traditional sovereign wealth fund. It was so with the help of Goldman Sachs. "

" It started in 2009 when the Malaysian prime Minister at the time, Najib Razak, wanted a political slush fund to stay in power. And he leaned on a 27-year-old Malaysian financier called Jho Low, who has a wealth of wealth fund.

"Low helped him to funnel money around the world – and $ 1 billion into Najib's account, that Najib then But unbeknownst to Najib, Jho Low then used billions more to fund a billionaire's lifestyle. He partied with Hollywood celebrities, he bought storied US companies like EMI Music Publishing. right. "

Jho Low faces charges in both the US and Malaysia.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas Laid Out Case Against Najib In Court Wednesday – Highlighting a Shopping trip in late 2014 in which Najib is said to have used his credit card to buy $ 130,625 worth of items at a Chanel store in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Thomas said Najib also used the money to pay for renovations at two properties that the forms leader owns

"A former prime minister is charged with due process in the ordinary court of the country, like any other accused," Thomas said, according to Malaysian newspaper The Star. "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." [Malaysian Police Seize Cash, Jewels, Designer Bags From Ousted Premier's Residence] led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the country's previous long-term leader who returned to the post last year when Najib's political party lost power for the first time in more than 60 years.

Within days of Najib's election loss last May, police zeroed into the ousted leader, raising a residence at which they have numerous luxury items, from Hermes crocodile skin bags to diamonds and jewelry. The goods, some of which were bought in Paris and Switzerland, included more than 560 handbags and 2,200 rings.


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