Former Malaysian PM Najib denies corruption charges, granted bail

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was granted bail on Wednesday after pleading not guilty to corruption charges.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (C) arrives for a court appearance at the Duta court complex in Kuala Lumpur on July 4, 2018. 

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was granted bail on Wednesday after pleading not guilty to corruption charges, an indictment which could make him the first retired leader behind bars in the country's 61-year history.

Najib was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust as well as using his position for graft in connection of 42 million ringgit (US$10.5 million) from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB, that was transferred into Najib's personal account.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to the charges. After much argument in the courtroom, the judge finally granted Najib's bail at 1 million ringgit, with the money to be paid at two tranches, half on Wednesday and the other half before Monday. The judge also asked Najib to surrender his passports.

1MDB was set up by Najib in 2009 to spur Malaysia's economic development. But report emerged later that billions of US dollars were misappropriated. Najib has been under instigation related to 1MDB since losing the general elections in May, but has denied any wrongdoing.

He was arrested by Malaysia's anti-corruption body on Tuesday. His spokesman said the charges and other ongoing investigations against him were "politically motivated" and the former prime minister will "clear his name in court."

Tommy Thomas, the new attorney general appointed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, denied there were "political persecution" in the case, telling reporters after the indictment proceeding that "we are just looking from criminal law perspective."

"It doesn't matter who the personality is, it's just criminal law," he said.

Thomas took the place of former AG Mohamed Apandi Ali, whom Mahathir accused of hiding evidence in relation to 1MDB.

Thomas declined to confirm whether there will be more charges levied against Najib, saying it will depend on whether investigators from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission can comb through the "discreet separate transactions" linked to 1MDB and give the evidence to the prosecutors.

Thomas added that he is confident with a strong "prima facie case" in hand, which "we can prove at the trial." He also noted that there is no need to doubt that Najib would not get a fair trial.

"Once the court fixed the bail at 1 million, we did not object to it being paid over two periods, two days. So we are very very fair. I think if you measure us by any standards, we are very fair," he said.

The judge has set a case management date on August 8 and a tentative trial date is set for February 18-28, then for March 4-8 and March 11-15 next year.

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