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Malaysian first lady accused of money laundering

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A day after Rosmah Mansor was arrested by Malaysia’s anti-graft authorities as part of what has become the world’s biggest scandal, the country’s former first lady has been charged on 17 counts of financial misappropriation.

Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor.jpg

Image shows Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

After spending a night in detention following her arrest by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), 66-year-old Mansor was taken to a Kuala Lumpur court on Thursday, to be charged over infringement of an anti-money laundering law.

As part of MACC’s investigation into a multibillion-dollar scandal related to the country’s controversial 1MDB state investment fund, Mansor was charged with 17 offences, Beijing Bulletin confirms.

Charges against the former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wife were related to laundering the illegal proceeds from the 1MDB state investment fund and over the failure to declare income to the Inland Revenue Board.

Mansor pleaded not guilty to all charges on Thursday.

Subsequently, reports noted that Mansor was granted bail on RM2 million by the Sessions Judge Azura Alwi on the condition that Rosmah surrenders her passports.

She was also categorically ordered not to harass witnesses during the trial.

The anti-graft agency arrested Rosmah on Wednesday, after taking her in for questioning a third time over the alleged theft and money laundering at the state fund.

Initially hailed as a game changer for Malaysia, the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), state investment fund was set up to attract foreign direct investment, that would help in the long-term strategic development of the country.

However, over the years, the state investment fund accumulated billions in debts.

Suspicions soon turned into full-blown accusations of underlying corruption in the usage of the fund – with all fingers pointing at the man who had set up the now-defunct state investment fund in 2009 – Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Razak’s decision to unveil the state fund during his second term in office and all his subsequent actions since 2009, not only resulted in the end of the six decades long unbroken rule of his coalition in May this year, but also unleashed the biggest financial scandals the world has ever seen.

Razak first faced allegations of corruption in the year 2016, when the Wall Street Journal reported that $700 million was diverted from the 1MDB fund into the personal bank account of the then-Malaysian Prime Minister.

A week later, the United States Department of Justice confirmed that over $3.5 billion was stolen from the 1MDB fund and some of the funds were diverted into accounts of ‘Malaysian Official 1.’

Both U.S. investigators and Malaysian officials identified Razak as being ‘Malaysian Official 1,’ even though the then Prime Minister denied wrongdoing.

Even though Razak tried to sideline America’s probe by seeking investments from China, revelations about how the money stolen from the state fund was allegedly used by the Prime Minister and those close to him riled up Malaysians.

Anger in the country, where the median income stands at less than $400 per month, hit a peak after the U.S. and six other countries announced findings of a months-long investigation into the misappropriation.

The investigation found that funds meant for Malaysia’s economic development were looted for years and used to buy luxury apartments in Manhattan, mansions in Los Angeles, paintings by Monet, corporate jets and even for financing a major Hollywood movie.

Alleging that Razak’s associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the fund between 2009 and 2014, American investigators revealed that some of that money landed in Razak’s bank account.

Amid regulatory investigations around the world, and the discovery of hundreds of millions of dollars in Razak’s personal bank accounts – the then Prime Minister’s efforts to muzzle criticism within the country failed.

Then, on May 9 this year, Razak’s long-ruling coalition was ousted by 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who came out of retirement to challenge Razak over the corruption scandal.

The world’s oldest elected leader vowed to reopen investigations into 1MDB and declared that the former Prime Minister will face the consequences if found guilty of wrongdoing.

Subsequently, Malaysia’s Chief of Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) took charge of the probe, which had, by then, become the most sensational case of elite corruption in Asia in the last three decades.

The CCID raided 12 properties linked to Razak and made “the biggest seizure in Malaysian history,” with the haul of items seized amounting to at least $273 million.

The Malaysian government officially accused Razak’s administration of conducting an “exercise of deception” over 1MDB.

Razak was then charged for corruption, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power amongst other charges under the anti-money laundering act.

Vowing to fight it out legally, Razak has denied any wrongdoing and is set to face trial next year.

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