Ex-Malaysian PM Najib Charged with Corruption, Pleads Not Guilty

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been formally charged in connection with a multi-billion dollar scandal involving sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Najib was charged Wednesday in a lower court with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of corruption, a day after his arrest at his home by agents with the country’s anti-corruption commission. The 64-year-old ex-prime minister is accused of siphoning $10.4 billion from SRC International, a former unit of the troubled 1MDB.

Najib pleaded not guilty to the charges during Wednesday’s hearing. He was released after posting a $250,000 bail and ordered to surrender his two passports.

The trial is tentatively set to begin next February. Each of the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse after his release, Najib said he looked forward to the trial, as it would give him a chance to clear his name.

Najib is at the center of a probe into allegations of embezzlement from 1MDB, which he created while in office. The U.S. Justice Department says a total of $4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB, some of which allegedly landed in Najib’s personal bank accounts.

The scandal led to a stunning electoral loss in May of Najib’s National Front coalition, which had ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since gaining independence in 1957.

Since his ouster, Najib has been barred from leaving Malaysia and questioned by the government’s anti-graft agency along with his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Malaysian police announced last week they had seized nearly $275 million in cash, jewelry and luxury handbags in raids on properties linked to Najib. The inventory included 12,000 pieces of jewelry, 567 handbags, 423 watches and 234 pairs of sunglasses. The most expensive item was a necklace worth more than $1 million.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led the coalition that defeated Najib, has reopened investigations into the 1MDB scandal which his predecessor shut down.

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