Former Malaysian premier Najib Razak was charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust involving government funds worth more than $1.5 billion on Thursday, adding to the 32 charges he already faces for money laundering and graft.
His former treasury chief, Irwan Serigar Abdullah, was also charged with criminal breach of trust, becoming the highest-ranking civil servant to be charged since Najib was unexpectedly ousted in a general election in May.
The two pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Each charge carries a jail term of up to 20 years, a financial penalty and a whipping sentence, but both Najib and Irwan would be exempted from whipping as they are over the age of 50.
“Nothing in the charges show that any of the acts I undertook resulted in any benefit to me,” Najib said at a press conference after the court hearing.
“There shouldn’t be any belief that any of the monies stated in the charges were lost, or that there were any elements of self-interest.”
The new administration led by Mahathir Mohamad has been cracking down on corruption and has charged several former senior government officials, including Najib’s former deputy.
A particular focus is how billions of dollars went missing from state fund 1Malaysian Development Berhad (1MDB), founded by Najib in 2009.
Four of the six charges filed on Thursday involving about 4.78 billion ringgit relate to a settlement agreement between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi state fund IPIC, said Azam Baki, a deputy commissioner at the anti-graft agency.
In 2017, 1MDB had agreed to pay $1.2 billion to the Abu Dhabi fund, in a settlement agreement following a dispute between the two over bond payments, according to the companies.
The 1MDB-linked charges allege Irwan and Najib committed the breach of trust offense with 220 million ringgit of government funds meant for Kuala Lumpur International Airport Berhad, 1.3 billion ringgit meant for a subsidy and cash aid program and 3.3 billion ringgit of other government funds.
Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said his client did not personally benefit from these transactions.
“These were funds that were initially allocated for a purpose, but on priority was revised, in the face of urgency and dire straits the nation was placed into. For the purposes of settlement of the IPIC issue, an executive decision had to be undertaken very honestly,” Shafee told the court.
He said the other two charges relate to a pipeline project and the East Cost Rail Link (ECRL), a $14 billion project that was the centerpiece of China’s infrastructure push in Malaysia.
The project, signed under Najib’s premiership, was suspended by Mahathir who has said the deal was “unfair” to Malaysia.
The judge released Najib and Irwan after setting a bail of 1 million ringgit each.
Prosecutors had earlier asked for 3 million ringgit bail for Najib, but the former premier’s lawyers said it was getting difficult for Najib to settle bail after having paid 4.5 million ringgit in bail since July.
“I would like to ask that my client is given at least three weeks for him to settle the 1 million bail because it has become very difficult for my client, even before and in the latest case,” Shafee said, adding Najib’s bank accounts remain frozen.
The judge ordered the bail be paid in 10 days.
Najib is already facing 32 money laundering, graft and breach of trust charges over transactions linked to 1MDB. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is due to begin next year.
His wife, Rosmah Mansor, was charged with money laundering earlier this month and had to pay bail of 2 million ringgit.
U.S. authorities allege that $4.5 billion was siphoned from 1MDB and that about $700 million was diverted into Najib’s personal bank accounts.
UN Says 10 Children Among 13 Killed By US Air Strike In Afghanistan
The United Nations has on Monday confirmed that ten children, part of the same extended family, were killed by a US air strike in Afghanistan, along with three adult civilians.
The deadly attack occurred early Saturday near the capital city of volatile Kunduz province a northern province where the Taliban is strong where Afghan and U.S. forces were conducting a joint operation against Taliban insurgents.
Sgt. Debra Richardson, spokeswoman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, confirmed on Sunday that US forces carried out the air strike. She said the mission aims to prevent civilian casualties, while the Taliban intentionally hides among civilians.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in releasing its preliminary findings about the incident. UNAMA said in a statement that it is verifying that all 13 civilian casualties occurred around the time of the air strike.
U.S. officials confirmed the killing of two service members and carrying out an airstrike in the area, accusing the Taliban of using civilian areas as hideouts.
The strike which happened between late Friday and early Saturday is to support the pro-government forces on ground fighting against the Taliban militants in the area. The ensuing clashes have killed two American soldiers and several local commando forces, prompting the U.S. military to launch the airstrike
Seven Wounded As Gaza Rocket Strikes Home In Central Israel
Seven people were wounded early Monday morning after a rocket allegedly fired from Gaza Strip stuck a house in central Israel prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short his visit to Washington and return to Israel after his meeting with President Donald Trump.
The Israel Defense Forces said that the rocket, which struck a home in the community of Mishmeret, was fired from a Hamas position in the area of Rafah in the southern Strip, some 120 kilometers from where it struck. It said the rocket was manufactured by the group.
Israel’s ambulance service said it treated seven people overall, including two women who were moderately wounded. The others, including two children and an infant, had minor wounds.
Israel has also closed the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings into the Strip.
Netanyahu said that Israel “will respond forcefully” to the rocket fire and that he was returning “to manage our operations up close.”
Teacher From Remote Kenya Village Is World’s Best, Wins $1 Million
A maths and physics teacher from rural Kenya who donates most of his salary to help poorer students has won the $1m Global Teacher Prize for 2019 beating 10,000 nominations from 179 countries.
36-year-old, Peter Tabichi, a science teacher at Keriko secondary school in Pwani Village, in a remote village in Kenya’s Rift Valley, Tabichi, a member of the Franciscan religious order, who gives away 80 percent of his salary to support poor students, received the prize at a ceremony on Saturday in Dubai, hosted by Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman.
“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter, this prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi said.
In a society where drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common while over 90% of his pupils are from poor families and almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, students have to walk 7km along roads that can become impassable in the rainy season to reach the school.
- UN Says 10 Children Among 13 Killed By US Air Strike In Afghanistan March 25, 2019
- Seven Wounded As Gaza Rocket Strikes Home In Central Israel March 25, 2019
- Appeal Court Cancels Zamfara APC Primaries For Gov, Assembly Elections March 25, 2019
- Morocco: Teachers Protest Over Poor Working Conditions March 25, 2019
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