Malaysian ex-PM’s wife appears on day one of ‘historic trial’

Rosmah Mansor, wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, arrived in court on Wednesday for day one of a graft case. (File photo: AFP)
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Updated 05 February 2020

Malaysian ex-PM’s wife appears on day one of ‘historic trial’

  • Experts say it is the first time a premier’s spouse is being charged for fraud

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.

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Ex-PM May attacks ‘reckless’ UK Brexit plan

  • May, whose 2016-2019 premiership was derailed by the tortuous Brexit process, said the draft law would “lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation”
  • Johnson has argued it will provide a “safety net” against what he has claimed are EU threats to impose tariffs on UK internal trade

LONDON: Britain’s former prime minister Theresa May said Monday she would not support the government’s new Brexit legislation, which will break international law, accusing the government of acting “recklessly and irresponsibly.”
May, whose 2016-2019 premiership was derailed by the tortuous Brexit process, said the draft law would “lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation.”
“As a result, with regret, I have to tell the minister I cannot support this bill,” she told fellow MPs as the proposed legislation underwent scrutiny in parliament.
The UK Internal Market Bill unveiled earlier this month would override parts of the Brexit treaty struck by May’s successor Boris Johnson with the European Union last year.
Ministers have admitted it would breach international law.
British lawmakers voted last week to allow the draft law to proceed for further scrutiny despite EU calls for it to be withdrawn.
Numerous MPs from the ruling Conservatives cautioned against adopting the most contentious measures in the legislation, but only two ended up voting against it while 29 abstained — including May.
Lawmakers will vote again on the bill on Tuesday next week before it goes to the House of Lords for weeks of further scrutiny.
Johnson has argued it will provide a “safety net” against what he has claimed are EU threats to impose tariffs on UK internal trade and even stop food going from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland.
But EU leaders have dismissed this as spin and warned Johnson to uphold commitments he made in the Brexit treaty last year and withdraw the offending parts of the new bill by the end of the month.
The row threatens to disrupt already tough post-Brexit trade negotiations, fueling growing fears of failure that would see more than four decades of EU-UK integration come to a crashing halt at the end of this year.
Britain left the EU in January but remains bound by the rules of the 27-member bloc until December 31.