Najib’s trial makes global headlines

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By BERNAMA

Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s trial glossed media headlines across the world yesterday as global attention focuses on Malaysia’s first prosecution of a former prime minister (PM).

Najib’s trial began yesterday as prosecutors filed seven counts related to criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering.

The trial saw more than 200 media personnel flooding the courthouse, including international media agencies.

The New York Times carried news heading “Najib Razak, Malaysian Leader Toppled in 1MDB Scandal, Faces First Graft Trial”. The article quoted James Chin, director of Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania.

“This is a sea change for Malaysian politics for the very simple reason that for the first time a former head of government has been charged with corruption,” said.

Influential US newspaper The Washington Post carried a harder headline — Prosecutor Says Ex-Malaysian PM Abused His “Absolute Power” — reporting on the prosecution’s remarks during the trial.

Reuters reported that yesterday’s trial was exactly 10 years after he took office on April 3, 2009, saying it was a “stunning fall from grace” for a leader who had been taken down by the Opposition less than a
year ago.

Al Jazeera — which conducted a heated interview with Najib when he lost his cool as he was quizzed over matters such as the “pink diamond” and 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) — took readers on a flashback, describing the timeline of the state-owned fund leading up to the trial.

UK’s BBC News highlighted that the 1MDB fund, which was designed to boost Malaysia’s economy through strategic investments, was allegedly wrongly used for funding lavish lifestyles, financing a Hollywood film, as well as a superyacht.

International business wire Bloomberg pointed out that the trial will serve as a testament to the country’s preparedness in diving into the 1MDB scandal.

As the charges involve the RM42 million funds transferred onshore into Najib’s account from SRC International Sdn Bhd — a former unit of 1MDB — the case would be easier compared to other transactions that had led to other charges, Bloomberg said.

CNBC brought in an expert to comment on Najib’s first court case, quoting Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior advisor Oh Ei Sun.

He suggested that the former PM could try to buy his time and delay the trial further due to the “possible chances” that his party could win in the next general election.

“It is because of Najib’s party Umno, which is the previous ruling party, sort of gaining traction in the recent months. If Umno were to ally with the Islamic party (PAS), there is a possible chance for them to win,” Oh told CNBC.