Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has arrived in court for the long-awaited first day of hearings for the biggest of five trials linked to a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at the state fund 1MDB.
The opening of the trial on Wednesday has been postponed several times to allow time for the completion of a separate trial involving the former 1MDB unit SRC International.
Najib, who lost a general election last year, has been hit with 42 criminal charges of corruption and money laundering at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and other state entities.
He has pleaded not guilty to the earlier cases and maintains the charges are politically motivated.
Najib’s lawyers had sought to delay the 1MDB trial to allow time for the conclusion of the SRC case at the High Court.
The SRC trial, which began in April, was adjourned on August 14 after Najib contracted an eye infection, halting the cross-examination of the prosecution’s final witness. The SRC case concluded on Tuesday.
1MDB has spawned investigations in at least six countries, including the United States where the Department of Justice alleged $4.5bn has been misappropriated from the fund.
Najib is facing a total of 42 criminal charges of corruption and money laundering at 1MDB and other state-owned entities where he has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In Wednesday’s highly-anticipated trial, Najib faces four charges of having used his positions to obtain gratification totalling $550m from 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money.
On Friday, prosecutors handed to the defence thousands of pages of documents related to the case, government lawyer Ahmad Akram Gharib told Reuters news agency.
“Under the rules, a trial can only begin at least two weeks after all the related documents are handed over,” Ahmad was quoted as saying by Reuters, adding that about 60 witnesses were expected to be called in the second case.
Najib’s lawyers say he had no knowledge of the transfers into his accounts and was misled by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and SRC’s former chief executive, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, who are at large, according to Reuters
Low, who faces charges in the US and Malaysia over his alleged central role in the 1MDB case, has consistently denied wrongdoing. He is currently in hiding overseas.