Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges as the country’s new government looks for answers to how billions of dollars went missing from a state fund 1MDB during his term.
Dressed in a grey suit, Najib appeared calm as three charges of money laundering were read out at the Kuala Lumpur high court on Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty, and was granted bail.
Najib has also pleaded not guilty to three charges for criminal breach of trust and one charge for abuse of power that were levelled against him last month.
The money laundering charges relate to electronic transfers amounting to 42 million ringgit ($A13 million) from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, into Najib’s personal bank account.
The offence carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail and a fine of not less than five times the value of the proceeds of any illegal transfers, or five million ringgit, whichever is higher.
Najib was accompanied by his children as he arrived at the courthouse in a four-car motorcade. He left after the proceedings without speaking to the media.
“SRC, at the time of the so-called happening, was no longer a part of 1MDB. So it’s got nothing to do with 1MDB…,” Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told reporters outside the court.
SRC, created in 2011 by Najib’s government to pursue overseas investment in energy resources, was a unit of 1MDB until it was moved to the finance ministry in 2012.
When asked if he thinks the case was a witch-hunt, Shafee said: “My client and I hope that’s not the case”.
High Court Judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said a decision on when the trial begins, and on a gag order issued last month to stop public discussion of the case, would be made on Friday.
The scandal at 1MDB fully erupted in 2015 after media reports that hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB were diverted to his personal accounts.
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that those funds were donations from a Saudi royal, and that the bulk of them had been given back.
1MDB is being investigated by at least six countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, over alleged money laundering and graft.