Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has denied corruption charges over the disappearance of millions of dollars from the 1MBD state investment fund, as part of a graft probe while he was in office.
A day after his arrest, the Malaysian High Court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday charged Najib with abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust for allegedly depositing 42m ringgit ($10m) in state funds to his personal bank account between December 2014 and February 2015.
“I claim trial,” he said in court on Tuesday before being granted bail at 1 million ringgit ($250,000) in cash.
The charges relate to funds that were allegedly transferred from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MBD) into Najib’s personal account.
If convicted, each of the four charges could see the former prime minister jailed for up to 20 years.
Al Jazeera correspondent Florence Looi reports: “The sum of about $10m is a small amount compared to the $4bn that Najib and his associate are alleged to have embezzled from 1MBD.”
Najib, who says the legal action against him is politically motivated, was arrested by anti-corruption investigators on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency questioned Riza Aziz, the stepson of Najib and a Hollywood film producer.
The 1MBD investigation has been several years in the making with allegation over misappropriation first emerging in 2015.
‘White collar crime’
Public anger over alleged corruption at the 1MDB fund, which was set up in 2009, helped bring on the shock defeat of Najib’s coalition in the May 9 polls.
The new government – a coalition of opposition parties headed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – reopened investigations that were stifled while Najib was in office and set up a special task force.
“This new government has made it its top priority to prosecute people involved in the white collar crimes involving 1MBD as well as recovering the stolen funds,” said Al Jazeera’s Looi.
In 2015, it emerged that $4bn had gone missing from the 1MBD sovereign wealth fund, and nearly $700m was allegedly transferred into Najib’s bank account.
The US state department filed a case in 2016, seeking to seize more than $1bn in assets linked to the fund.
Najib denied any wrongdoing and said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family, which he had since returned.
So far, police have questioned others politicians as well as Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansour and his step son, Riza Aziz.
Malaysian authorities have also frozen hundreds of bank accounts believed to be linked to 1MBD.