Najib tries to delay 1MDB trial again

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has filed another application to delay his trial over seven alleged criminal breaches of trust, abuse of power and money laundering charges.

Najib’s corruption case involves RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds.

He faces 42 charges in total.

The trial was already delayed twice by the Court of Appeal.

Najib’s lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, has been accused of using delaying tactics in order to give Najib more time to build support among voters and animosity towards the new government. Najib has recently been on a charm offensive, releasing a surreal music video in which he proclaimed his innocence.

A key witness, the Chinese-Malaysian financier from Penang, Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low, is seen by Malaysian and US investigators as one of the masterminds of the 1MDB scam. But he remains at large.

The authorities in at least six countries have probed numerous financial transactions from Swiss banks to tax havens.

Goldman Sachs, one of the most powerful US banks, is facing criminal charges in Malaysia and demands for reparations of US$7.5 billion. It denies the charges.

Najib, who set up the “bold and daring” sovereign wealth fund in 2009 to propel Malaysian development, is the eldest son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, Abdul Razak, and the nephew of the third. Najib studied at Malvern College in the English Midlands and graduated in industrial economics at the University of Nottingham.

His rhetoric about “moderate” Islam meant he was courted by western leaders.

Alarms sounded in 2015 when 1MDB missed payments due for some of the US$11 billion it owed to banks and bondholders.

In July 2016 the US Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit claiming that more than US$3.5 billion had been stolen. The amount has since been increased to in excess of more than US$4.5 billion.

Then-US attorney general Loretta Lynch said senior government figures “treated this public trust as a personal bank account”.

It said Najib received US$681 million in stolen funds but returned most of it.

Several of his properties were raided after he lost the general election last May and police seized piles of luxury goods and US$28.6 million in cash. He denies all the charges.

His wife, Rosmah Mansor, 67, has also been charged with money-laundering and tax evasion, to which she has pleaded not guilty.

Pictures of supermarket trolleys packed with more than 500 luxury handbags, watches and 12,000 items of jewellery said to have cost up to US$273 million sparked outrage on social media.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 93, says his return to politics was motivated by the desire to unseat his former protege.

“I apologise to everyone, that I am the one who elevated him, the biggest mistake in my life. I want to correct that mistake,” Mahathir said while campaigning last May.

Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014. Picture credit: Kremlin