Former PM Malaysian PM Najib faces biggest 1MDB trial

Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak will have to fight 21 charges of money laundering and four of abuse of power for receiving illegal transfers of about 2.3 billion ringgit between 2011 and 2014. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2019

Former PM Malaysian PM Najib faces biggest 1MDB trial

  • Najib Razak, who lost a general election last year, has been hit with 42 criminal charges of graft and money laundering
  • 1MDB, founded by Najib in 2009, is being investigated in at least six countries

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s former prime minister, Najib Razak, on Monday faces the biggest of five trials linked to a multi-billion-dollar scam at state fund 1MDB, although lawyers are seeking a delay to allow time for the completion of a previous trial.
Najib, who lost a general election last year, has been hit with 42 criminal charges of graft and money laundering at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and other state entities.
1MDB, founded by Najib in 2009, is being investigated in at least six countries, and the US Department of Justice says about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund.
In his second trial at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, Najib will have to fight 21 charges of money laundering and four of abuse of power for receiving illegal transfers of about 2.3 billion ringgit ($550.8 million) between 2011 and 2014.
He has pleaded not guilty and says the charges are politically motivated.
On Friday, prosecutors handed to the defense thousands of pages of documents related to the case, government lawyer Ahmad Akram Gharib told Reuters.
“Under the rules, a trial can only begin at least two weeks after all the related documents are handed over,” he said, adding that about 60 witnesses were expected to be called in the second case.
The first trial, which began in April and revolves around former 1MDB unit SRC International, was adjourned on Aug. 14 after Najib contracted an eye infection, halting the cross-examination of the prosecution’s final witness.
That case is also expected to resume on Monday, and lawyers from both sides hope the second trial can be delayed to allow prosecutors to wrap up the first.
“The accused can only be at one place at a time,” Najib’s lawyer, Harvinderjit Singh, said. “We are hoping the judge will allow us some leeway in this matter.”
After the shock election loss, Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor were barred from leaving Malaysia and their luxurious lifestyle came under scrutiny, with the discovery of nearly $300 million worth of goods and cash at properties linked to him.
Rosmah, known for her designer handbags and jewelry, has also been charged with corruption. She has pleaded not guilty.
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 both at large.
Low, who faces charges in the United States and Malaysia over his alleged central role in the 1MDB case, has consistently denied wrongdoing. A spokesman for Low did not respond to a request for comment.
Nik Faisal, who has never publicly commented on the matter, could not be reached for comment.


Japan, South Korea hold export talks, seek dispute solution

Updated 16 December 2019

Japan, South Korea hold export talks, seek dispute solution

  • Japan in July tightened trade controls on South Korea materials used in high-tech products
  • Tokyo also downgraded Seoul a month later from a list of preferential trade partners

TOKYO: Senior officials from Japan and South Korea were holding talks Monday on high-tech exports for the first time since Tokyo tightened controls on South Korean semiconductor parts earlier this year.
The director-general level meeting was taking place in Tokyo between Yoichi Iida of Japan’s Trade Control Department and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Ho-hyeon. The two officials shook hands at the beginning of the talks, though they made no opening remarks to the media.
A meeting of this level had not been held in more than three years.
Japan in July tightened trade controls on South Korea materials used in smartphones, television screens and other high-tech products, citing national security concerns. Japan also downgraded South Korea a month later from a list of preferential trade partners.
South Korea has demanded Japan reverse the measures, saying Tokyo has weaponized export controls in retaliation for South Korean court rulings demanding Japanese companies pay compensation to former Korean laborers over their treatment during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Tokyo has pressed Seoul to stick with a 1965 agreement in resolving their dispute over wartime Korean laborers, criticizing the court decisions a violation to international law.
Japan’s trade curbs against South Korea have led to subsequent retaliatory measures that spilled into the area of national security, with Seoul threatening to abandon a key military intelligence sharing pact with Tokyo.
The pact was saved just hours before its expiration in November, following Washington’s repeated pressure and with Tokyo agreeing to resume export control talks requested by Seoul.
Monday’s talks come a week ahead of a planned summit between the two countries and China.
Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers, Toshimitsu Motegi and Kan Geun-wha, both attending the Asia-Europe Meeting in Madrid, Spain, talked briefly and welcomed their trade officials’ meeting in Tokyo, Japanese officials said. The two sides also agreed to cooperate closely on threats from North Korea and to achieve next week’s summit.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan’s export control measures are part of the country’s international responsibility and that “they are not something that we decide by negotiating with a trade partner.”
“Our policy has been consistent and there is no change to our position,” Suga said, referring to Japan’s position on the wartime compensation issue. “We urge South Korea to act wisely.”
South Korean national assembly speaker Moon Hee-san is seeking to set up a compensation fund for the Korean wartime laborers with an option that allows Japanese companies to chip in donations as a compromise.