Malaysian ex-leader swore in a packed mosque on Friday saying he did not order the killing of a Mongolian woman linked to a major defence deal, rejecting an allegation from his ex-bodyguard.
Altantuya Shaariibuu was shot dead and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives in 2006.
Her death was linked to a scandal which allegedly saw kickbacks doled out during a 2002 deal to purchase French submarines, on which Altantuya worked as a translator.
This week, a government bodyguard convicted of her murder made the explosive claim that it was ordered by Najib, defence minister at the time — prompting the veteran politician to head to a Kuala Lumpur mosque to proclaim his innocence.
In front of a cheering, 1,000-strong crowd, the 66-year-old swore an Islamic oath in which he denied that he gave the order and pumped his fist in the air.
“I stand with the truth, I only fear Allah,” said Najib, dressed in a traditional Islamic outfit and alongside his wife.
The former prime minister — whose government lost power last year amid claims of massive graft — has been charged with looting state coffers, but he still commands substantial support among the country’s Muslim majority.
Malaysian authorities reopened the investigation into Altantuya’s murder last year after Najib lost power.
Two bodyguards were sentenced to hang over the killing. One of them, ex-police officer Azilah Hadri, claimed that Najib ordered him to “shoot to kill” Altantuya in a statement that is part of a legal appeal.
The second, Sirul Azhar Umar, fled to Australia and has said he is willing to assist the new investigation but Canberra is unlikely to extradite him as he is facing the death penalty.
Altantuya’s lover Abdul Razak Baginda, a close aide to Najib, is a central figure in the scandal and was accused of arranging the kickbacks. He was also tried over the case but was acquitted.
Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak took the stand to defend his conduct in the 1MDB scandal Tuesday, as the first of several trials linked to the multi-billion-dollar fraud entered a crucial stage.
Huge sums were stolen from sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, allegedly by the ex-prime minister and his cronies, and spent on everything from high-end real estate to artwork.
His coalition was ousted at the polls last year after six decades in power, largely due to public anger over the scandal, and he has since been arrested and hit with dozens of charges linked to the looting of the investment vehicle.
The 66-year-old went on trial in April over the controversy, in a case centring on the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($10.1 million) from a former 1MDB unit into his bank accounts. Najib denies any wrongdoing.
The High Court ruled the trial should proceed on the strength of the prosecution case, with Najib’s team now set to present his side of the story.
Defence proceedings began with the former leader giving testimony under oath. His performance may be key in determining whether he can persuade the judge of his innocence.
He will also face cross-examination from prosecutors and is expected to be on the witness stand for around four days.
Najib arrived at the court in a blue suit and held a brief Muslim prayer with supporters at the building’s steps.
“I am as prepared as I can be,” he told AFP.
He began his testimony reading from a 243-page statement, recalling his long career in politics and ministerial posts he held since 1978, including the post of finance minister.
Answering questions from his lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Najib said he was not the architect of 1MDB, which was formed in 2009 after the government took over the Terengganu Investment Agency and renamed it.
Najib had said in a Facebook post last month that his testimony “will enable me to give a true picture of events and prove that I am not guilty” and “an opportunity to clear my name in court”.
He is facing four charges of corruption and three counts of money-laundering in the trial over former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International.
Prosecutors have argued that Najib wielded huge influence over the unit and knew that stolen money was being funnelled from it into his accounts.
But in an opening statement in court before Najib took the stand, his lawyer Shafee said they will prove that Najib “did not misappropriate funds… either directly or indirectly” and “did not act dishonestly”.
The amount transferred to his account “was done without his knowledge or involvement” as the transactions “were being manipulated by third parties without his knowledge and approval,” Shafee said.
“Ultimately, we will pray for an order that (Najib) be acquitted and discharged of all seven charges,” he said.
The case is one of several 1MDB-linked trials investigating Najib’s conduct. The biggest opened in August, centring on allegations he illicitly obtained over $500 million from the fund.
US authorities, who are also investigating the fraud as money was allegedly laundered through the American financial system, believe $4.5 billion was looted from the fund.
Toppled Malaysian leader Najib Razak returned to court for the second day of his high-profile corruption trial Monday, with the former premier accused of plundering large sums from scandal-hit state fund 1MDB.
The 65-year-old finally went on trial this month over his alleged role in looting the investment vehicle, the first of several court cases he is expected to face over the controversy.
The ex-prime minister and his cronies are accused of stealing billions of dollars from 1MDB and spending it on everything from high-end real estate to artworks and a luxury yacht.
The allegations played a large part in prompting voters to oust his corruption-plagued coalition, which had been in power for six decades, at historic elections last year. Since then, Najib has been arrested and hit with dozens of charges over the scandal.
The ex-leader’s highly-anticipated trial began on April 3, with Najib denying seven charges related to the theft of 42 million ringgit ($10.2 million) from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.
It is just a fraction of the money Najib is accused of stealing — he has also been charged in a separate case over the alleged transfer of $681 million to his bank account.
He arrived at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur Monday for the second day of proceedings, wearing a dark suit and tie, and passed through a scrum of journalists before entering the courtroom and taking his seat in the dock.
The main witness called Monday was Azizul Adzani Abdul Ghafar, an investigating officer from the central bank, who was part of a team that raided the branch of a local lender, AmBank.
The officers seized documents related to accounts held by Najib at the bank, accounts belonging to SRC International, and accounts held by another company. The stolen money from SRC was allegedly sent to Najib’s accounts at AmBank.
Earlier Najib’s defence team cross-examined Companies Commission of Malaysia official Muhamad Akmaluddin Abdullah, who had testified when the trial opened, on matters related to SRC’s records.
After the trial was adjourned for the day, Najib’s chief lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the prosecution would have to prove the ex-leader knew the money flows were illicit to convict him.
“There can be many transactions. The issue does (Najib) know the exact thing that is going on, does he know in fact it is from illegal sources?” he told reporters outside court.
“The prosecution needs to show that he is complicit, that he is part of the conspiracy.”
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing over the looting of 1MDB.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who came out of retirement to lead an alliance to a shock election victory against Najib’s government last year, has pledged to bring Najib to justice and recoup the huge sums of cash stolen from 1MDB.
The US Department of Justice, which is investigating the 1MDB controversy as money was allegedly laundered through the American financial system, believes $4.5 billion in total was looted from the fund.
Malaysia has also charged Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs over the scandal, alleging the bank and its former employees stole billions of dollars from 1MDB.
Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak was making a last-ditch bid Monday to delay the start of his trial over the 1MDB scandal, which contributed to his government’s shock election defeat.
Najib is due to go on trial Tuesday for the first time over allegations that he was involved in the looting of Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in a fraud that stretched around the world.
Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen by Najib and his cronies from the fund, which was set up to help develop Malaysia’s economy, and spent on everything from high-end real estate to expensive artworks.
The scandal was a major factor in his long-ruling coalition’s loss at polls in May. Since losing power, Najib has been arrested repeatedly and hit with a total of 42 charges linked to 1MDB. He has denied wrongdoing.
The trial due to begin Tuesday is on seven charges related to allegations Najib pocketed 42 million ringgit ($10.3 million) from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
But his lawyers have filed an application for the trial to be delayed pending an appeal on a technicality related to the transfer of charges between different courts. The Court of Appeal is due to rule on the application later Monday.
It is just one of several trials Najib is expected to face over 1MDB and involves a fraction of the total purportedly stolen from the fund.
But the start of the first trial will be a key moment and may relieve pressure on the new government following criticism that it has been slow to act over 1MDB.
Far from keeping quiet, Najib has gone on a bizarre publicity blitz in recent weeks, performing a cover of a 1970s R&B hit accompanied by backing singers, attacking the new government on social media and seeking to present himself as a man of the people.
Malaysia’s toppled leader, an ex-finance ministry official and a former spy chief were charged with misusing public funds on Thursday, the latest corruption cases against figures from the scandal-plagued old regime.
Former prime minister Najib Razak has now been hit with 38 charges since losing power, most related to allegations that he and his cronies plundered vast sums from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
The scandal played a major part in prompting voters to oust his coalition at elections in May after six decades in power and elect a reformist alliance headed by Mahathir Mohamad.
Najib was jointly charged in a Kuala Lumpur court with Mohamad Irwan Serigar Abdullah — former treasury secretary-general, a key finance ministry position — with misusing 6.6 billion ringgit ($1.6 billion) of public money.
They were charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust over offenses that allegedly took place between December 2016 and December 2017.
They denied all the charges. Four of those related to 1MDB’s dealings with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC, the anti-corruption agency said.
The others were overpayments related to two Chinese-backed infrastructure projects — a major rail link and the construction of gas pipelines, Najib’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah said.
He insisted Najib had simply been making payments to avoid defaulting on debts, which would have been disastrous for the economy.
“My conscience is clear,” Najib insisted after being charged, “the decisions taken were taken for the interests of the nation.”
The Chinese-financed projects have been suspended by Mahathir’s government, which suspects the deals were dubious and aimed at raising cash quickly to pay 1MDB debts.
The fund slid into a massive debt hole as huge sums of money were allegedly stolen and used to buy everything from a super-yacht to a high-end real estate and pricey artworks.
The US Department of Justice, which is seeking to seize assets allegedly bought with looted 1MDB money in America, alleges that a total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund.
Hasanah Abdul Hamid, the former head of a shadowy spy agency which worked directly under Najib, was charged with one count of criminal breach of trust. She is accused of pocketing $12.1 million of public money in the run-up to May’s election.
She denies the accusation. Her lawyer Shaharudin Ali insisted her case was not linked to 1MDB, state news agency Bernama reported.
Najib and his two allies are free on bail.
The former prime minister’s luxury-loving wife, Rosmah Mansor, and the new leader of his party and long-time lieutenant, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, have also been arrested and charged with corruption in recent weeks
Malaysia’s disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak will face new charges in court Wednesday under anti-money laundering laws in a case linked to a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal, authorities said.
The announcement came after Najib, who suffered a shock defeat in May elections, was summoned for a new round of questioning by the anti-corruption agency.
Najib was arrested last month and charged with criminal breach of trust and abusing his position over accusations he pocketed 42 million ringgit ($10.3 million). The new charges he faces are in relation to the same case, the anti-graft agency said in a statement.
All the charges relate to the scandal surrounding sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, which was set up and overseen by Najib.
The former leader, his family and cronies are accused of embezzling huge sums that were used to buy everything from artwork to high-end real estate in a sophisticated fraud that spanned the globe.
The graft allegations were a major factor in the defeat of Najib’s long-ruling coalition by a reformist alliance headed by political heavyweight Mahathir Mohamad, 93.
After questioning Najib Tuesday for 45 minutes, the anti-graft agency said he would be charged under the anti-money laundering law in relation to SRC International, an energy company that used to be a subsidiary of 1MDB.
He is to face three new charges, the official news agency Bernama reported.
According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, about $10 million originating from SRC was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts.
Najib has so far pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
Shortly after his downfall, a treasure trove of valuables was seized in raids on properties linked to Najib and his family — including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags — worth up to $273 million.
From prime minister of Malaysia two months ago to key suspect in a massive corruption scandal, Najib Razak’s stunning fall from grace has been swift and hard.
Since his shock election defeat in May, Najib has faced a tightening noose as the new government headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad ramped up investigations into allegations of graft and excess that have hung over him and his wife Rosmah Mansor for years.
The bland patrician son of one of Malaysia‘s founding fathers, Najib, 64, had been groomed for the prime minister’s post from young.
When he took over in 2009, Najib initially presented himself as a reformer.
He made limited changes such as replacing security laws widely criticised as stifling dissent, offering a glimmer of hope for the end to repressive tactics by the once-invincible coalition that had held power for six decades.
But the UK-educated Najib was seen by many as an aloof elitist with little understanding of Malaysia‘s common citizenry, a perception accentuated by frequent tone-deaf gaffes and policies such as the 2015 introduction of a sales tax unpopular with the poor and now set to be eliminated.
Rosmah, meanwhile, was a constant lightning rod for critics due to her imperious manner and elaborately coiffed mane of hair, which she once complained cost her 1,200 ringgit ($300) per house-call from stylists. Malaysia‘s minimum monthly wage at the time was 900 ringgit.
That and similar episodes caused her to be reviled in a multi-cultural country where most of the population are modest-living Muslims.
‘Cash is king’
New Prime Minister Mahathir has said Najib told him in a private conversation in 2015 that “cash is king” in maintaining political support in Malaysia, a phrase that opponents have turned against Najib as a sign of his hubris and corruption.
Money and power seemed to work as a firewall against Najib through a scandal involving Malaysia‘s 2002 purchase of French submarines while he was defence minister, a deal brokered by a close associate of his.
Allegations later emerged of huge kickbacks to Malaysian officials to secure the deal, and the scandal was punctuated by the murder of a Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was involved in the negotiations.
Her body was blown up near Kuala Lumpur using military-grade explosives.
Two officers in a special unit that guarded Malaysian ministers were convicted of the killing, but suspicion that Najib and Rosmah were involved has hovered for years, with Najib at one point being forced to deny he had an affair with the 28-year-old Altantuya.
But the final straw was 1MDB, (1Malaysia Development Berhad), a fund Najib launched to promote economic development.
Soon after Najib won a second term in 2013, 1MDB slid into a massive debt hole and allegations surfaced that money was missing.
Public disgust with reports that began to emerge four years ago detailing the plundering of the sovereign wealth fund snowballed into the Mahathir-led electoral tsunami that now has Najib in police cross-hairs.
Billions of dollars are said to be missing in the scandal, nearly $700 million of which was deposited into Najib’s bank account alone.
US authorities say Najib’s entourage used hundreds of millions in diverted 1MDB funds to purchase high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London, a Monet painting for $35 million, a $5.5 million Van Gogh, a $35 million Bombardier jet and to finance the 2013 Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street”, which was produced by his stepson Riza Aziz.
A 2015 investigative report by the New York Times also alleged that millions of dollars were used to purchase jewellery for Rosmah.
In a speech last year, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticised those allegedly involved in the scandal, adding: “This is kleptocracy at its worst.”
Najib steadfastly denied wrongdoing, while persecuting his accusers and shutting down media outlets that reported on the affair.
Having now lost the protection of power, Najib and Rosmah face a growing public groundswell to see them jailed.
As if sensing this, the once-defiant Najib tweeted after the election: “I apologise for any shortcomings and mistakes.”
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested by anti-corruption investigators Tuesday, officials said, the latest dramatic development in a widening graft probe that has engulfed the ex-leader.
Najib, 64, will be charged Wednesday, a taskforce set up to probe wrongdoing at state fund 1MDB said in a statement, adding he was apprehended “at his home”.
The arrest is the latest in a series of stunning moves by investigators that suggest the legal noose is tightening around Najib, his family and many of his close political and business allies.
Allegations of massive corruption were a major factor behind the shock election loss in May of Najib’s long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.
Najib and his cronies were accused of plundering billions of dollars from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund to buy everything from US real estate to artworks.
Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
Since the election loss Najib has been banned from leaving the country and has found himself at the centre of a widening graft probe.
Shortly after his ouster, a vast trove of valuables was seized in raids on properties linked Najib and his family, including cash, jewellery and luxury handbags, worth up to $273 million.
He and his luxury-loving wife Rosmah Mansor were questioned by investigators, as were his stepson Riza Aziz, whose firm produced the hit 2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and his former deputy Zahid Hamidi.
A special government task force investigating the 1MDB corruption scandal said it froze 408 bank accounts containing a total 1.1 billion ringgit ($272 million) last week.
Local media reports said some of the accounts belonged to Najib’s political party, the once-powerful United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Until their shock defeat in May, Najib’s party and its coalition allies had run Malaysia for six decades.
A security source told AFP that agents from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) arrested Najib at his home, a sprawling mansion in a well-heeled suburb of Kuala Lumpur.
“They came in three to four unmarked cars,” the source, a senior security official familiar with the arrest, said.
A spokeswoman for MACC told AFP the former leader was brought to the commission’s headquarters in the administrative capital Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur.
Najib will stay there overnight and will be brought to court Wednesday, she added.
The task force said Najib was arrested in relation to allegations involving SRC International Sdn Bhd, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB.
According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, $10.6 million originating from SRC was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts, just one small part of hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB that allegedly ended up in Najib’s accounts.
The US Justice Department, which is seeking to recover items allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB cash in America, estimates that $4.5 billion in total was looted from the fund.
Veteran legislator Lim Kit Siang, whose party is a member of the current ruling coalition, said Najib’s arrest had been expected.
“Najib has to answer the allegations. It is long delayed as the scandal has turned Malaysia into a global kleptocracy country,” he told AFP.
Hamidi, Najib’s former deputy, said: “I respect the rule of law… Let the rule of law take place.”
Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday challenged Prime Minister Najib Razak to debate allegations of corruption and mismanagement leveled against them both during their terms in office.
Veteran leader Mahathir, 92, and his former protege Najib have been embroiled in a feud for nearly two years, with Mahathir campaigning to oust Najib over alleged graft linked to scandal-ridden state fund one Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Najib denies wrongdoing, Mahathir said Najib should attend a town hall session he dubbed “Nothing to Hide”.
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said “This is nothing new, before Anwar was against BN (National Front), he was against me but I accepted him into UMNO (United Malay National Organization) we work together for many many years and then certain things happened, we had to separate, now certain other things happen, we have to come together again.”
The government recently formed a royal commission to investigate a two-decade-old multi-billion-dollar foreign-exchange scandal that occurred during Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister.
Mahathir, who ruled for 22 years, also said he is not opposed to his long-time nemesis turned ally, Anwar Ibrahim, becoming prime minister, “if that’s what people want”.
Anwar is currently serving a jail term for sodomy, which the opposition leader and his supporters claim was a politically-motivated charge.
From April 7, to about July 15, 20 years ago, between 500,000 to one million people were killed in Rwanda.
That period of time, was known as the genocide mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu, planned by members of the core political elite, known as the Akazu, many of whom were already in top government positions.
According to sources, the war took place in the context of the Rwandan civil war, which was an ongoing conflict that had begun in 1990, between the Hutu-led government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, composed mainly of Tutsi refugees, whose families had fled to Uganda after their earlier encounter with Hutu violence against the Tutsi.
For many Rwandans, the experience of the genocide brought a lot of suspicion, fear and tension, in the years that followed after the genocide.
Today, many have only one phrase on their lips; that is, ‘Rwanda genocide, never again!’
The younger generation is doing what it can to cope with the country’s horrific past, as many lost parents and loved ones in the killing.
To help them move on, orphans from the period, have been coming together to form groups, that support one another while others are using social media such as facebook, to preach peace and reconciliation.
A Lot Has Changed
Believe it or not, a lot has changed in Rwanda, since then.
The country is said to have low corruption, compared with neighbouring African countries. It also has the highest proportion of females in government positions, in proportion to the population.
Although seriously affected by the genocide, its economy has grown since then. A country of few natural resources, the economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture by local farmers, using simple tools.
However, tourism is a fast-growing sector in Rwanda, and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner.
Rwanda’s high commissioner to Nigeria, told Channels Television that Rwandans had moved on and are looking ahead to make the country work.
“There are many initiatives to make the people come together. People have gone beyond ethnic divisions. Things have changed,” he said.
Just like many at the time, he also had his losses.
One week after the referendum in Crimea, Russia has already begun integrating the peninsula with people there already turning in their Ukrainian passports for that of Russia and Russian flags have now been hoisted at 189 Ukrainian military units and facilities in Crimea.
The EU has accused Russia of pre-planning this move, but according to Russia’s ambassador to the EU, the ‘reunification’ had not been pre-planned, but was the end of what it called an ‘abnormality’ which had lasted for 60 years.
The United States, having imposed sanctions on Russia’s main leaders, has ruled out sending US troops to Ukraine, which has gone ahead to sign that long awaited deal with the European Union.
Meanwhile, Nato is worried about the growing number of Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s eastern border.
What’s going on between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union, only reminds us of the period just after the end of the cold war, when both sides continued their show of force for who was better.
Analysts believe the tensions surrounding the Crimea have further degraded relations between Russia and the United States.
The US and its allies thought the tension would all end at the negotiating table, which is why a series of warnings came from all parties opposed to the Russian take over.
Moscow however, has shown it is not afraid of sanctions or repercussions, and instead, pushed ahead, signing the declaration annexing Crimea, backed by the country’s parliament.
As with all things in international politics, there are actions and counter-actions. One of them is the sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU.
Will they bring Russia to its knees?
A Professor with the Political Science Department, Covenant University in Ota, Ogun State, Kayode Soremekun, says there were several dimensions and views to the issue, ranging from what could be called ‘Russian aggression, Washington’s hypocrisy.’
He said that what has happened has been likened to an earlier throw back to what happened in the time of Adolf Hitler.
“When you are talking of international politics, every country has its own interest to protect and in this case Russia’s interests run counter to Washington’s interest.
“Russia has some Russians living in Crimea and what Russia did was a irredentist’s move,” Professor Soremekun.
He explained that the sanction would not only have effect on Russia but also on the countries that had issued the sanctions.
Mystery Of Missing Malaysian Flight MH370
Diplomatic Channels also considered the circumstances surrounding the missing Malaysian plane, MH370 that has left the whole world amazed for over two weeks of the plane’s disappearance off the radar at the control tower in Kuala Lumpur.
The plane was on its way to the Chinese capital, Beijing, but disappeared after one hour of take-off time.
On board were 239 people and Malaysian authorities believe it was deliberately taken off course.
Since the middle of last week, the search has been in two distinct corridors, one stretching to the north-west of the last known location in the Malacca straits, and one to the south-west.
Rescuers are now working with leads from satellite images, believed to be debris from the missing plane, but even that has proved inconclusive.
Every minute and every hour is crucial in the search for the missing plane, especially the data recorder, which has a battery lifespan of 30 days.
On March 24, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, informed the families of those missing on flight MH370 that the plane likely crashed in the Indian Ocean west of Perth. Now the search will concentrate on the Southern part of the Indian Ocean.
With 26 countries involved in the search, using the latest technological equipment for an extensive search, there are still no answers on debris.