A court in Malaysia on Monday postponed by a week the start of the trial against a former prime minister for his alleged role in the embezzlement of billions in public funds that contributed to his shocking election defeat last year.
Najib Razak, 66, has been slapped with a total of 25 criminal charges of corruption and money laundering related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund since the scandal led to his fall from power when he was voted out of office in the elections held in May 2018.
The judge decided to postpone the trial until Aug. 26 at the request of the prosecution, which accuses Najib of 21 counts of money laundering and four of abuse of power for allegedly diverting 2.28 billion ringgit (around $546 million) from the fund into his personal bank accounts.
The magistrate made the decision to allow time for an earlier trial – underway since April – to be concluded.
In that trial, which involves a subsidiary of 1MBD, Najib faces another seven other charges of money laundering and abuse of power for a total of 42 million ringgit (some $10 million).
Malaysia's former prime minister set up 1MDB in 2009, the year in which he took office, to attract foreign investment and create a financial district in Kuala Lumpur. But the fund ended up accumulating losses of about 42 billion ringgit.
The 1MDB corruption scandal was uncovered in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report website, which brought to light the alleged diversion of $681 million to Najib's private accounts.
The change in government after the May 2018 elections led to the reopening of the case, in which Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, as well as several businessmen close to Najib and bank executives, have also been charged.
The United States has said that some $4.5 billion were diverted and a quarter of that money was laundered inside the country via the purchase of real estate, yachts, jewelry and artworks. EFE-EPA