In a stunning fall from grace, Malaysia‘s former prime minister Najib Razak was charged in court on July 4 as part of an investigation into allegations of extensive corruption and misappropriation at a state fund he founded.
Razak pleaded not guilty to three charges of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power, in relation to a suspicious transaction involving SRC International, a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
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.
“As a public official, which is prime minister and minister of finance, used your position for self-gratification [for a] total of 42 million ringgit,” Attorney General Tommy said referring to the abuse of power charge.
Razak, who lost power in an election last month, has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB and SRC.
He was arrested at his home on July 3, less than two months after an unexpected election defeat to a coalition led by his mentor-turned-foe Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Police and anti-graft agency officials have revived investigations into the fund’s missing billions since his ouster.
Some of Razak’s children were present in court, including his stepson, Riza Aziz, who on July 3 was questioned by anti-graft officers.
Mohamad said previously that he holds Razak fully responsible for the 1MDB scandal and that Malaysian authorities have “an almost perfect case” against him.
As a result of an anti-kleptocracy probe, the U.S. Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $700 million of the fund’s money ended up in Razak’s personal bank accounts.
Last month Razak said he shouldn’t be blamed for any of the problems at the fund and declared he knew nothing about why hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB allegedly appeared in his bank account.
In a pre-recorded message posted on Twitter after his arrest on July 3, the former prime minister said not all the accusations against him and his family were true. A spokesman for Razak previously said the SRC charges and the 1MDB investigations against the former leader were “politically motivated.”
“Let investigations be carried out. I have not had a chance to defend myself,” he said.
Since his loss at the polls, Razak has been barred from leaving the country and had millions of dollars of items seized from properties linked to his family.
The scandal around 1MDB plagued Razak’s second term in office, eventually leading to the ousting of a coalition that had ruled Malaysia since its independence from Britain in 1957.