Former Malaysian PM Najib takes stand in 1MDB scandal-linked trial

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak

Najib is on trial for three counts of money laundering, three counts of criminal breach of trust and one for abuse of power over $10 million in transfers to his personal bank accounts from SRC International.

Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak insisted he was not the architect of the 1MDB scandal as took the stand to defend his conduct on Tuesday, as the first of several trials linked to the multi-billion-dollar fraud entered a crucial stage.

He said 1MDB was originally a sovereign wealth fund started by the northeastern Terengganu state together with the state ruler, who was Malaysia's king at the time.

The former leader, who is defending himself at the high-profile criminal trial in Kuala Lumpur's high court, has claimed that he is the victim of a political witchhunt after he lost the election to his former mentor and current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad past year.

The Malaysian High Court in November decided that the prosecutor had a strong case against Najib and called on the former prime minster to defend himself.

Najib arrived at the court in a blue suit and held a brief Muslim prayer with supporters at the building's steps.

"If he [Jho Low] turns up, my client's defence would be 100% better", said the senior lawyer. "I am as prepared as I can be", he told AFP.

He began his testimony reading from a 243-page statement, recalling his long career in politics and ministerial posts he held since 1978, including the post of finance minister, and giving lengthy background on the setting up of 1MDB and SRC.

His lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told a press conference that two of these unnamed individuals were from Saudi Arabia while the other two were from Abu Dhabi.

What is Najib accused of?

Najib, who unexpectedly lost a general election previous year, is now facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received about $1 billion in 1MDB funds.

Prosecutors have argued that Najib wielded huge influence over the unit and knew that stolen money was being funnelled from it into his accounts.

The former leader did not have to give testimony under oath, and could have opted instead to give a statement from the dock without being cross-examined, or to remain silent.

Former prime minister Najib Razak.

The amount transferred to his account "was done without his knowledge or involvement" as the transactions "were being manipulated by third parties without his knowledge and approval", Shafee said. The judge said it was clear he had acted for personal gains. "Ultimately, we will pray for an order that (Najib) be acquitted and discharged of all seven charges". Furthermore, SRC was not the only MoF Inc company that [was] involved in national interest at that time.

USA authorities who are also investigating the fraud, as money was allegedly laundered through the American financial system, believe $4.5 billion was looted from the fund.