Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak to learn fate in 1MDB trial next month

Above, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur on June 1, 2020. Najib faces a verdict on July 28 over the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 June 2020

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak to learn fate in 1MDB trial next month

  • Najib Razak lost power in 2018 elections, in large part due to accusations of his involvement in the 1MDB scandal

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s ex-leader Najib Razak will learn his fate over allegations he plundered state coffers next month when a verdict is delivered in his first trial over the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal.
Huge sums were looted from the country’s sovereign wealth fund and spent on items ranging from high-end real estate to artwork, in a globe-spanning fraud allegedly involving Najib and his inner circle.
The former prime minister lost power in 2018 elections, in large part due to accusations of his involvement, and he is fronting several trials over the controversy. He denies all wrongdoing.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court this week heard closing arguments in the first trial, which began 14 months ago and centers on the transfer of 42 million ringgit ($9.8 million) to Najib’s bank accounts.
The presiding judge said Friday he would hand down a verdict on July 28.
Najib will face a lengthy jail term and will likely be sentenced on the same day if found guilty.
His lawyers argue the 66-year-old was ignorant of the transactions into his accounts from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
They have pointed the finger at Low Taek Jho, a jet-setting Malaysian financier known as “Jho Low,” as the true mastermind behind the fraud, saying he tricked the former premier.
Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Adbullah urged the judge to clear Najib of the seven charges of corruption and money-laundering he is facing, saying the bank transfers were “illegal.”
“The transactions were never authorized” by Najib, he said, adding that “rogue bankers” were also involved in the fraud.
Low, who held no official positions at 1MDB but was believed to wield huge influence over the investment vehicle, has been charged in Malaysia and the US over the scandal.
The financier, whose current whereabouts are unknown, maintains his innocence.
Prosecutors claim that Najib had full control over SRC International and took major decisions related to it.
The case is one of three 1MDB-linked trials so far underway involving the former premier.


Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”