Malaysian court approves graft trial of wife of former PM Najib Razak

Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak, arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A Malaysian court on Thursday ordered Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, to enter a defence in a corruption trial linked to a multi-million dollar project approved while the ex-premier was still in power.

Dozens of graft charges were filed against the couple after Najib lost the 2018 election, amid anger over alleged corruption and their opulent lifestyle after police raids revealed Rosmah owned millions of dollars worth of jewellery and luxury handbags.

The Kuala Lumpur high court ruled that the prosecution had proved sufficient grounds for the case to proceed.

“This is my finding that the prosecution has produced credible evidence to prove every element of the offence… I now call upon the accused to enter a defence,” judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said in his ruling.

Rosmah, who wore a traditional Malay dress with a shawl covering her head, told the court that she would testify under oath during defence proceedings.

Her lawyer, Jagjit Singh, said after the hearing the defence would be “hampered to a certain extent” because the judge did not explain the factors behind his decision, adding that this had caused his client emotional distress.

“We had to comfort her a little bit. We just told her to go back to her house and remove all the stress that has gone through here,” Jagjit told reporters.

Rosmah was earlier accompanied by Najib, who had to leave midway through her hearing to attend to his own court case.

Rosmah, 69, faces three charges of soliciting and receiving bribes involving a sum of 194 million ringgit (an equivalent of $48.09 million) to help a company, Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd, secure a solar power project.

Of that total, prosecutors accuse Rosmah of arranging for 187 million ringgit to be paid as a political donation to Najib, while also receiving two bribes of 6.5 million ringgit.

If found guilty, she could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined at least five times the sum specified in the charges.

In July, Najib was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail in the first of several trials linked to a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He has since filed an appeal against the decision.

The couple have denied any wrongdoing, saying the charges are politically motivated.

Rosmah’s case will resume on June 9.

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