By Rozanna Latiff
KUALALUMPUR (Reuters) – A Malaysian court on Monday ordered former Prime Minister Najib Razak to present his defence against seven counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in a case linked to a scandal surrounding state fund 1MDB.
Najib, who lost a general election last year, faces dozens of criminal charges over accusations that $4.5 billion (£3.52 billion) was stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which he co-founded in 2009.
In the first case facing him, Najib has pleaded not guilty to three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of power for allegedly receiving illegal transfers of 42 million ringgit (£7.81 million) from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.
“SRC has been wrongfully deprived of the 42 million,” Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali said. “As such, I now call upon the accused to enter his defence on all seven charges.”
Najib told the court he would take the stand in his defence. The defence case will start on Dec. 3.
If convicted, Najib could face hefty fines and jail terms ranging from 15 to 20 years on each charge.
Prosecutors wrapped up their SRC case against Najib after testimony from 57 witnesses. In his closing statement, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said Najib had orchestrated graft at 1MDB “like an emperor”.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)