Malaysia court hits former PM with money laundering charges

Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak was charged with three counts of money laundering Wednesday, in connection with a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The charges are connected to the transfer of RM42 million ($10.3 million) from SRC International, a 1MDB subsidiary, to Najib’s personal bank accounts, state news agency Bernama said.

The charges come a month after Najib was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one charge of abuse of power.

Najib, 65, whose government was plagued by scandal, was soundly defeated in a shock election result in May by 93-year-old veteran politician Mahathir Mohamad.

On Wednesday, Najib was accused of receiving three transfers totaling RM42 million — of RM27 million, RM5 million and RM10 million — “which were proceeds from unlawful activities,” Bernama reported.

No plea for Najib was recorded, according to the news agency.

Last month, Najib was arrested and charged with abuse of power and criminal breach of trust related to the alleged transfer of the same amount of money into his personal bank account from SRC International. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bail.

Najib has apologized to the Malaysian people, saying, “I have tried my best but I realize that it is not enough… Yes, I am not perfect. I’m just a normal person. But believe me, all these accusations made against my and my family are not true.”

On taking office Mahathir reopened an investigation into 1MDB and prevented his former protege Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, from leaving the country.

In July police said they had seized $225 million in luxury handbags, jewelry, cash and goods from six properties linked to the former leader. The goods were seized as part of the investigation into the sprawling scandal related to 1MDB, from which Najib and others are accused of siphoning off billions of dollars.

On Tuesday a luxury yacht that was allegedly procured using stolen money from 1MDB was returned to the Malaysian government.

The yacht, “Equanimity,” which was seized by Indonesian authorities in Bali earlier last year, was purchased by Malaysian financier Jho Low in 2014, a close family friend of Najib.

The seizure was requested by the US Justice Department “which asserted ownership of the yacht on behalf of Malaysia and 1MDB because monies belonging to us were used to purchase it.”

According to US investigators, Low used misappropriated funds from 1MDB to buy 27 different 18-carat gold necklaces and bracelets for the wife of someone listed in the complaint as “Malaysia Official 1.” That official has been widely reported to be Najib.

The US is currently seeking to recover around $540 million misappropriated from the 1MDB fund, with more than $1.7 billion of assets subject to forfeiture under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

Some of those assets include profits from the Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was financed by a company associated with 1MDB, as well as properties linked to Low and others.

Mahathir told CNN in an exclusive interview last month that his incoming government was shocked by the scale of corruption.

“Most of the top echelons in the government are corrupt,” he said.