In a stunning fall from grace, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged in court on Wednesday as part of a probe into missing monies at scandal-tainted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Attorney General Tommy Thomas read out in court three charges of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power, in relation to a suspicious transaction involving former 1MDB unit SRC International.
Each of the four charges carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years. The charge of using his office or position for gratification also carries a fine of not less than five times the value of gratification.
Najib was arrested at his home on Tuesday, less than two months after an unexpected election defeat to a coalition led by his mentor-turned-foe Mahathir Mohamad.
Police and anti-graft investigators have revived probes into the fund’s missing billions since his ouster.
Some of Najib’s children were present in the court room, including his stepson Riza Aziz who on Tuesday was questioned by anti-graft officers in connection with their 1MDB probe.
Najib, who spent the night in lockup, arrived at 8.20am at the court complex in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie.
Crowds of media and curious onlookers jostled to catch a glance of the former premier as he was led to a sessions court to face the charges.
Some members of Najib’s UMNO party chanted and held up placards in solidarity with their former leader.
Earlier, state news agency Bernama broadcast Najib’s convoy live as it moved through morning rush-hour traffic during the long drive from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s offices in the administrative capital Putrajaya to the court in Kuala Lumpur.
The charges are in connection with how 42 million ringgit ($10.6 million) went from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, into Najib’s personal bank account.
That is only a fraction of the total amount allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB. The U.S. Department of Justice has said over $4.5 billion was siphoned from the fund.
SRC is the initial focus of Malaysian investigators as all the suspicious transactions involving the firm were made through Malaysian entities, unlike other 1MDB related transactions that went through foreign banks and companies.
A spokesman for Najib said on Tuesday that the SRC charges and the 1MDB investigations against the former leader were “politically motivated”, and that Najib will contest the charges and clear his name in court.
Mahathir said in an interview with Reuters last month that embezzlement and bribery with government money were among the charges that Malaysia was looking to bring against Najib, 64, adding that Najib was fully responsible for the 1MDB scandal.
Since his loss at the polls, Najib has been barred from leaving the country and had millions of dollars of items seized from properties linked to his family.
In a pre-recorded message posted on Twitter after his arrest, Najib said he was not perfect and “not all the accusations against me and my family are true.
“Let investigations be carried out. I have not had a chance to defend myself,” he said.