The life of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has turned 180 degrees in a decade; If ten years ago today he began his career in command of the Asian country, this Wednesday the politician sat for the first time on the bench to answer part of the quarantine of charges of which he is accused. Most related to his alleged involvement in the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the 1 Malaysia Development Berhard fund (1MDB), created by him in 2009 and the axis of a scandal with ramifications from Goldman Sachs to Hollywood.
Smiling, clad in a navy blue suit and sheltered by dozens of followers, Najib arrived at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, determined to defend his innocence. Before, he joined the prayer for a few minutes with his followers from the Muslim-majority country, who almost a year ago decided against him at the polls largely for his management of the fund, with final losses of 42,000 million ringgit (about 9,170 million euros).
Najib is the first to be tried in Malaysia for the plot of embezzlement and squandering of the sovereign wealth fund, one of the main promises that led Mahathir Mohamad, his political godfather from Najib, to win the 2018 elections. The current trial is It focuses only on seven of the forty-two positions facing the one who initially created the 1MDB to attract investment and spur growth in the developing country.
The former prime minister pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to the three charges of breach of trust, another three of money laundering and one of abuse of power that were brought against him, which include sentences of between 15 and 20 years in prison. All are linked to the diversion of 42 million ringgit (€ 9.17 million) from a 1MDB affiliate, SRC International, to their private accounts. Transfers that helped maintain the ostentatious lifestyle that he and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, also charged.
“Evidence shows that in December 2014, the defendant’s credit card was charged $ 130,625 for purchases made at the Chanel store in Honolulu,” Chief Prosecutor Tommy Thomas read today in the courtroom, according to media reports. local.
In total, research into the 1MDB suggests that Najib misappropriated 2.6 billion ringgit (approximately € 567 million). A minimum part, however, of the total of 4.5 billion dollars (4 billion euros) that the United States Department of Justice – one of the countries, together with Malaysia or Singapore, which investigate corruption – calculates that they were embezzled in total.
The Najib trial is expected to make way for a series of court cases that unravel one of the largest corruption scandals today. Unveiled in 2015 due to the leak by a Spanish-born Swiss banker, Xavier Justo, of hundreds of documents revealing the dark financial operations between 1MDB and London-based company Petrosaudi, the plot has even spilled over into Hollywood or Goldman Sachs. Malaysian authorities accuse the bank and one of its former partners of concealing and misrepresenting information about the bond sale to raise funding for the fund.
In addition to the former Malaysian prime minister, at the center of the scandal is his then-trusted man, the young Jho Low, who before turning thirty managed the fund’s operations. In an unknown whereabouts, Low built a significant network of contacts around the world, according to the United States. This led him to rub shoulders with Saudi princes, models like Miranda Kerr and actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, helping to finance films like The Wolf of Wall Street with money from 1MDB.
Without great expectations of recovering – as Mahathir has promised – the embezzled money, the first trial against Najib is currently a political victory for the nonagenarian prime minister, who focused on the 1MDB his strategy to retake power fifteen years after his first term. (1981-2003).