World

Najib takes the stand in his first 1MDB corruption trial

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sought to show he was the victim of a fugitive financier as he opened his defence yesterday in his first corruption trial linked to the multi-billion dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund.

Najib is defending himself against seven charges of abuse of power, breach of trust and money laundering relating to RM42 million (S$14 million) that allegedly went into his bank accounts from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.

Standing in the witness stand in his crisp blue suit, Najib outlined 1MDB's formation and the role of financier Low Taek Jho, who has been identified by the US as the mastermind behind the massive scandal.

He said 1MDB was originally a sovereign wealth fund started by the north-eastern Terengganu state together with the state ruler, who was Malaysia's king at the time. Low was an adviser and close associate of the then-king at the time, he said.

The fund ran into problems over its Islamic bond issuance and the Cabinet "reluctantly" agreed to take over in 2009 to prevent embarrassment to the king and adverse impact on the country's bond market, he said.

He said the 1MDB directors remained the same and it was 1MDB's idea to form SRC in 2011. He said he was not aware of company clauses giving him key power in SRC but that it was not unusual in government-linked companies.

Najib denies any wrongdoing and accuses Malaysia's new government of seeking political vengeance. - AP

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