Wife of Malaysia’s ex-PM Najib charged with money laundering

KUALA LUMPUR: The wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was charged with 17 money laundering offences on Thursday, as anti-graft agents investigate billions of dollars missing from state coffers.
Rosmah Mansor, criticised for her extravagant lifestyle as first lady of Malaysia, and Najib, are at the centre of a wide-ranging graft probe launched after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s stunning election victory in May.
Najib faces 32 charges from money laundering to abuse of power and criminal breach of trust over billions of dollars that went missing from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He has denied any wrongdoing.
It was not clear if the charges against Rosmah relate to 1MDB, but Rosmah’s arrest came after three rounds of questioning by anti-graft agents over 1MDB, from which US authorities say over $4.5 billion was misappropriated. Last Wednesday, Rosmah was questioned for nearly 13 hours.
After spending a night in detention following her arrest by anti-graft investigators on Wednesday, Rosmah entered a Kuala Lumpur court on Thursday.
Rosmah was charged with 17 counts under the anti-money laundering law. She was accused of handling funds of about 7.1 million ringgit ($1.71 million) from unlawful activities, and failing to declare the amount for tax purposes.
“The offences in which the accused has been charged are very serious,” prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the court.
“In this case, the character and standing of the accused unfortunately goes against her because a person of her standing should not be in the dock in the first place,” he said. Rosmah pleaded not guilty to all charges. The judge granted her a bail of 2 million ringgit ($482,509.05).
“It’s a good opportunity for Datin Seri Rosmah to clear her name,” her lawyer Geethan Ram Vincent told reporters outside the court.
The money laundering charges carry a penalty of up to 15 years in jail and a fine of not less than five times the value of the proceeds of any illegal transfers, or five million ringgit ($1.21 million), whichever is higher.
Rosmah, 66, is known for flaunting a range of Hermes Birkin handbags and showy jewellery, and spending thousands of dollars in shopping sprees around the world.
Najib also appeared at another courtroom in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday for a pre-trial hearing, as he faces multiple charges in relation to about $10.6 million allegedly transferred into his account from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB. Najib has pleaded not guilty. — Reuters