AUG 8, 2018: Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency has charged former prime minister Najib Razak with three counts of money laundering as part of its investigation into the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal.
The charges – which Najib denies – relate to three transfers totaling US$10m into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of the 1MDB fund that US investigators say was looted of billions by Najib’s associates.
A money laundering offense carries a penalty of a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of at least fives times the value of the proceeds of any illegal transfers, or $1.2m, whichever is the higher.
Najib arrived at the courthouse accompanied by his children and sat in the dock looking calm.
Last month Najib pleaded not guilty to abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust, just two months after the allegation led to his stunning election defeat.
He and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have been barred from leaving the country since he lost an election in May, and the new prime minister, his mentor-turned-foe Mahathir Mohamad, relaunched an investigation into 1MDB.
The 1MDB corruption scandal, described as the biggest in Malaysia’s history, saw billions of dollars allegedly embezzled and lavishly spent around the globe on luxury property, a luxury private yacht, Hollywood films and extravagant shopping sprees.
The 300-feet luxury US$250m yacht at center of the 1MDB scandal was returned to Malaysia, PM Mahathir said Monday.
Owned by Low Taek Jho – popularly known as Jho Low – a close Najib associate and former unofficial adviser to 1MDB was believed to have been sailing around Asia on the yacht before it was seized.
Indonesian police working with the FBI seized the yacht off Bali in February but had faced a legal challenge from a Cayman Islands company registered as its owner.
Legal experts said the return of the yacht would bolster the case against Najib and other people linked to the scandal and could be used to prosecute Jho Low after the fugitive is caught.
“Of course it will help the prosecutors. It is part of the evidence of the crime committed. It is certainty a positive development in the investigations,” N. Surendran, adviser to a group called Lawyers for Liberty, said.
Indonesian authorities detained the super-yacht following a request by the US Department of Justice.
Lawsuits filed in US courts by the Department of Justice allege that an estimated $4.5bn was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates.
The suits allege that US$1.7 billion worth of assets were allegedly bought with the stolen funds, which US officials are seeking to recover.
1MDB is being investigated by at least six countries including Singapore, Switzerland and the US.