KUALA LUMPUR: She has been compared to the Philippines’ Imelda Marcos for her expensive taste in Birkin bags, but it was Rosmah Mansor’s “overbearing and bossy” attitude which prosecutors say could set the tone for the length of the trial.
After a 48-hour delay due to ill health, 69-year-old Mansor, wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, arrived in court on Wednesday for day one of a graft case in which she stands accused of pocketing millions of dollars involving a solar hybrid project in Sarawak.
Mansor pleaded not guilty to all three counts of corruption.
Clad in a floral, all-green assemble, she arrived from hospital to high court accompanied by her lawyers and with an ambulance in tow. Razak joined her later and was seated behind her in court.
During the trial, Mansor was accused by lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram of acting “bossy” and controlling her husband for government dealings.
“She placed herself in a position where she was able to influence decisions in the public sector,” Sri Ram said while reading his opening statement in front of the packed high court.
Despite holding no official position in the government, Mansor was accused by Sri Ram of wielding “considerable influence (in the government) by reason of her overbearing nature.”
The first charge involved a bribery from Jepak Holdings’ managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin through her former aide in exchange for a government project to install solar hybrid systems for 369 rural schools in Sarawak.
Mansor allegedly solicited $46 million as a reward for direct negotiations with the Malaysian Education Ministry on the solar hybrid project that was worth $303 million.
Her second and third charges were accepting bribes worth $40,000 and $ 1.21 million, which she allegedly received from Abang Samsudin through her former aide, as a payment for assisting Jepak Holdings to secure the same project.
Several witnesses were called in to stand trial alongside Mansor before Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.
One of the witnesses, former human resource deputy director at the prime minister’s office, Huzairi Zainal Abidin, told the court that Mansor had a special division called the First Lady of Malaysia division in Putrajaya.
He alleged that she was afforded a special officer to facilitate programs for her in her capacity as the wife of the prime minister.
“The trial is historic as this is the first time a prime minister’s wife is being charged in Malaysia,” professor James Chin, Malaysian political analyst at Tasmania University’s Asia Institute, told Arab News.
He added that Mansor had become a hated figure in Malaysia and that the trial would have dire implications for the husband and wife duo.
“It confirmed rumours that Mansor could decide on government contracts despite not holding any positions in the government,” Chin said, adding: “It shows she was misusing her husband’s position to enrich herself.”
Chin said that: “The fact that Razak allows her to do it says a lot about their relationship,” adding that the trial will set a precedent for future cases.
Meanwhile, Razak is facing multiple graft charges related to the Malaysian development fund 1MDB scandal.
The billion-dollar political scandal has had a global impact and was the biggest kleptocracy case in the US.