Lawyer of former Malaysian PM Najib charged with money laundering

KUALA LUMPUR: The lawyer of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was charged with money laundering yesterday by anti-graft agents looking into how billions of dollars went missing from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Muhammad Shafee is leading a defence team for Najib, who faces charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power at SRC International, a former 1MDB unit. Najib has denied any wrongdoing.

In charges read out in court, Shafee was accused of money laundering for allegedly receiving proceeds totalling 9.5 million ringgit ($2.29 million) from illegal activities through cheques issued by Najib.

The charges were brought by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which is investigating alleged fraud and misappropriation at 1MDB, a fund founded by Najib.

1MDB is at the centre of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore. A total of US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to the US Department of Justice.

Malaysia reopened the probe into 1MDB after Najib, who chaired the fund's advisory board, was defeated by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in a stunning election win in May.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to abuse of power and other charges arising from the 1MDB investigation.

Mr Mahathir has vowed to punish people responsible for the 1MDB scandal and also to get back all the misappropriated funds.

Singapore returned 1MDB funds worth US$11.1 million to Malaysia last week. Malaysia also got back a US$250 million superyacht. - REUTERS