Najib set to face 1MDB trial today

The nation’s 6th PM is charged with 21 counts of money laundering and 4 counts of corruption involving 1MDB funds

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

DATUK Seri Mohd Najib Razak is expected to face the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial today involving 25 charges over billions allegedly credited into his bank accounts, money transfers to associates and power misuse in the country’s largest money-laundering trial in history.

In September last year, the ousted prime minister (PM) was charged with 21 counts of money laundering involving RM4.3 billion and four counts of corruption involving RM2.3 billion of 1MDB funds.

This morning, lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram can finally open the trial after it was postponed several times to make way for the completion of Najib’s other trial on SRC International Sdn Bhd.

As it is, the SRC case has not yet concluded, but it has reached an end-stage now as all the prosecution’s witnesses — 56 in total — have been called in to testify in court.

Last Wednesday, the proceeding of SRC was adjourned until today after Najib was infected with conjunctivitis.

It is learnt that the hearing for 1MDB trial shall begin at 9am today before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah, while the SRC trial is scheduled to be continued before Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali at 10am.

Sequerah is expected to give a ruling on whether to start the 1MDB trial and proceed with the prosecution’s opening statement, or give another adjournment until the SRC trial is fully completed.

Prosecutors had handed to the defence thousands of pages of documents related to the 1MDB case last Friday, government lawyer Ahmad Akram Gharib told Reuters.

“Under the rules, a trial can only begin at least two weeks after all the related documents are handed over,” he was quoted as saying, adding that about 60 witnesses are expected to be called in for the trial.

Counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah will lead the defence team in the 1MDB trial, which is also known as the Tanore (Tanore Finance Corp) trial.

The management of Kuala Lumpur High Court and authorities are prepared for the commencement of the 1MDB trial.

A source said a group of police from the Sentul police station will be deployed at the High Court complex to beef up the security, with more personnel to be called up should the crowd number get bigger.

The High Court has prepared 70 media passes, including for international journalists, to enter the open courtroom and a video-link room in facilitating the coverage of the highlyanticipated trial.

In the 1MDB case, Najib was alleged to have received a total of RM2.08 billion deposited to his account in nine tranches — RM155 million, RM155 million, RM155 million, RM188 million, RM231 million, RM138 million, RM152 million, RM304 million and RM602 million respectively.

The monies were transferred from Tanore’s account at Falcon Private Bank Ltd’s Singapore branch.

Najid also faced charges for five transfers — RM656 million, RM326.8 million, RM327.3 million, RM181.8 million and RM545.8 million — to Tanore.

He had claimed that the money deposited from Tanore and other accounts, amounting to US$800 million (RM3.31 billion), was linked to a foreign prince.

The US Department of Justice had previously asserted the US$681 million that made its way into Najib’s account was from Tanore, but that the funds were related to a bond issued by 1MDB in 2013.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore had shut down Falcon’s Singapore branch for serious breaches of anti-money laundering controls and improper conduct by senior management at the branch and its head office in Switzerland.

1MDB is being investigated in more than six countries involving a complex web of cross-border money transfers.

Najib had also been charged for making various payments including a RM20 million transfer to Umno, RM100,000 to Batu Kawan Umno in Penang, RM246,000 to an individual known as Lim Soon Peng, RM2 million to ORB Solutions Sdn Bhd and RM303,000 to Semarak Konsortium Satu Sdn Bhd.

He had also transferred RM12.4 million and RM150 million into his own accounts.

All of these 21 transactions carry its own charge under the Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

Four other charges are framed under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009.

If found guilty, the country’s sixth PM could face a maximum jail term of not more than 20 years.

The eldest son of the country’s second PM is already facing seven charges on criminal breach of trust (CBT), money laundering and power abuse in the SRC trial involving RM42 million of the company’s funds.

If found guilty for the CBT charges, Najib could face a maximum jail term of 20 years.