Lower court charges former premier with three counts of criminal breach of trust stemming from a corruption scandal at a state investment fund. Najib pleads not guilty, gets bail at $250,000.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arrives in court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (July 4, 2018)
Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak arrives in court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (July 4, 2018) (Reuters)

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged on Wednesday in a Malaysian lower court with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power, stemming from the corruption scandal at a state investment fund.

The charges are in connection with how $10.6 million (42 million ringgit) went from SRC International, a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (or 1MDB), into Najib's personal bank account.

However, a Malaysian High Court judge approved his bail at $250,000 (1 million ringgit) in cash.

Judge Mohamad Sofian Abdul Razak set the bail amount and told Najib to surrender his two diplomatic passports. 

Najib pleaded not guilty to all four charges.

Each of the three charges has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Whipping is also a penalty but Najib would be exempt because he is over 60 years old.

The charge of using his office or position for gratification also carries a fine of not less than five times the value of gratification.

'I claim trail'

"I claim trial," Najib said, in a barely audible voice as he stood in the dock at the high court in Kuala Lumpur.

Najib, 64, was arrested at his home on Tuesday afternoon, less than two months after police and graft-busters revived probes into the fund's missing billions and a suspicious transaction involving SRC International.

Najib, who spent the night in lockup, arrived at 0020 GMT (8:20am) at the court complex in Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur, wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie. 

The US Department of Justice has said over $4.5 billion was siphoned from the fund.

SRC is the initial focus of the Malaysian investigators as all the suspicious transactions involving the firm were made through Malaysian entities, unlike other 1MDB related transactions that went through foreign banks and companies.

A spokesman for Najib said on Tuesday that the SRC charges and the 1MDB investigations against the former leader were "politically motivated," and that Najib will contest these charges and clear his name in court.

Journalist Zan Azlee has the latest from Kuala Lumpur. 

Fall from grace

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in an interview with Reuters last month that embezzlement and bribery with government money were among the charges that Malaysia was looking to bring against Najib adding that Najib was fully responsible for the scandal.

Since his loss at the polls to mentor-turned-foe Mahathir, Najib has been barred from leaving the country and had millions of dollars of items seized from properties linked to his family.

In a pre-recorded message posted on Twitter after his arrest, Najib said not all the accusations against him and his family were true.

"Let investigations be carried out. I have not had a chance to defend myself," he said. 

"As a normal human being, I am not perfect but believe me, that the accusations against me and my family are not all true."

Source: Reuters