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|Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak (C) leaves a court in Kuala Lumpur on Apr 3, 2019, after facing his trial over alleged involvement in the looting of sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)|
Najib, who lost a general election last year, faces dozens of criminal charges over accusations that US$4.5 billion was stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which he co-founded in 2009.
In the first case facing him, Najib has pleaded not guilty to three counts of criminal breach of trust, three counts of money laundering and one count of abuse of power for allegedly receiving illegal transfers of RM42 million (US$10 million) from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.
"SRC has been wrongfully deprived of the 42 million," Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohamad Nazlan Mohamad Ghazali said. "As such, I now call upon the accused to enter his defence on all seven charges."
Najib told the court he would take the stand in his defence. The defence case will start on Dec 3.
If convicted, Najib could face hefty fines and jail terms ranging from 15 to 20 years on each charge.
Prosecutors wrapped up their SRC case against Najib after testimony from 57 witnesses. In his closing statement, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said Najib had orchestrated graft at 1MDB "like an emperor".
Vast sums were plundered from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in a mammoth scam allegedly involving Najib and his cronies, which has triggered investigations around the world.
His coalition was ousted at the polls last year after more than six decades in power largely due to the scandal, and he has since been arrested and hit with dozens of 1MDB-linked charges.
Najib denies any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case in August, having called 57 witnesses, and the High Court judge's ruling on whether the case moves forward is a usual step in the Malaysian judicial system.
In their closing submissions last month, prosecutors argued that Najib acted like an "emperor" in overseeing massive graft at the unit, SRC International.
His defence team has said that the bulk of evidence does not lead to "any finding of culpability" on Najib's part.
He is facing four charges of corruption and three money-laundering counts in the trial.
Each charge of corruption carries a maximum jail term of 20 years, and each money-laundering count is punishable by a term of up to 15 years.
Najib's biggest trial linked to the scandal-hit fund opened in August, centring on allegations he illicitly obtained over US$500 million from 1MDB.
US authorities, who are investigating the fund as money was allegedly laundered through the American financial system, believe US$4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB.