Malaysia’s highest court has ruled that former prime minister Najib Razak will face trial as scheduled next week, despite a last-ditch attempt by his defence team to delay the proceedings.
Najib faces trial on 25 charges of money laundering and abuse of power over allegations that RM2.28 billion (S$754 million) were transferred from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to his personal bank account.
A five-judge federal court on Tuesday (Aug 13) unanimously upheld a decision by a lower court to hold the trial on Aug 19, with Chief Justice Tengku Maimun saying that “there was no error in (the High Court’s) judgment”.
The ruling exhausts all legal options for either the defence or prosecution to delay the trial any further, Free Malaysia Today news portal reported.
1MDB is the subject of an international graft investigation over suspicions that US$4.5 billion (S$6.25 billion) of public money was misappropriated by high-ranking Malaysian officials, including the former premier, his family and closest aides.
Najib is currently facing a separate trial on seven charges of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption stemming from illegal transactions totalling US$10 million from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International to his personal bank account.
The trial, called the SRC trial, was disrupted in late July after a bomb hoax prompted a mass evacuation of the court complex. The scandal surrounding 1MDB, which was set up by Najib in 2009 to promote foreign investment in the country, was instrumental in his ouster from government.
Widespread anger over what was perceived to be the gross mismanagement of public funds led to the defeat of Najib’s Barisan Nasional party in the 2018 general election, paving the way for opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to take power for the first time.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made recovering the assets purchased with 1MDB money – which include a US$126 million superyacht, luxury properties in New York and Los Angeles and diamond jewellery – one of his government’s top priorities.