A lawyer representing former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was charged with money laundering on Thursday, as anti-corruption agents try to retrieve billions of dollars siphoned off from a scandal-plagued state fund.
The charges against Muhammad Shafee Abdullah come as a blow for Najib who is fighting charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power at a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government, which came to power after a surprise win in elections in May, also acknowledged that the 1MDB fraud investigation was going much more slowly than had been expected, and that “realistically” it was looking at getting back 30 percent of the misappropriated funds.
Shafee pleaded not guilty to two counts of money laundering at a court in Kuala Lumpur after allegedly receiving 9.5 million ringgit (1.7 million pounds) from Najib. He also faces two charges of false income tax declaration.
Prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said the case was part of the 1MDB investigation but didn’t say if the money allegedly received by Shafee was from the fund.
The charge sheet claims Shafee received the money through cheques from Najib in 2013 and 2014.
Shafee’s opponents say the money was paid in return for leading the prosecution against Anwar Ibrahim, the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party, who was imprisoned in 2015 on sodomy charges. Shafee denies the claim.
Anwar was released in May and is now the prime minister in-waiting.
– By Joseph Sipalan, Julia Fioretti, Reuters, 13 September 2018.
Link to Reuters.